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Home > Special Topics > Europe Report Last Updated: 15:17 03/09/2007
Europe Report #123: February 18, 2005

New Bush II Administration: New Dawn for EU Relations and a Democratic Iraq

Kevin Cooney (Assistant Professor of Political Science, Union University) and J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM and Asia Times)

Kevin Cooney, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Union UniversityKevin Cooney: When one looks at George W. Bush's State of the Union speech three words come to mind: bold, aggressive, and the future. I do not believe that Bush will be a typical second term president, worried more about his place in history than getting things done. Bush believes that he has been elected with "political capital" and he intends to use it to implement change. The last thing he wants to be is a caretaker president for the next four years. His plan, at the moment, is to execute change across the board to what he sees as broken in US policy. He will not play it safe. Principally he sees Social Security and support for non-democratic regimes as what is broken and he intends to fix the problems so that future generations do not have to. He wants to make the world a better place for the children of this world.

Sean Curtin: What aspects of Bush's address do you think Europe should pay particular attention to?

Kevin Cooney: For Europe the principle concern will be Bush's foreign policy over the next four years, so let me focus on that aspect of the State of the Union. Bush is probably less concerned with past American policy than his predecessors. He wants to make America a force for democracy. His much maligned policy of preemption is not as radical as one might think when one looks historically at American foreign policy.

The Monroe Doctrine (1823) at its core is a doctrine of the right of preemption in the Western Hemisphere. The very historical existence of the US Marines within the American armed forces is another example of preemption in American policy. The Marines are a self contained expeditionary force designed to preemptively deal with perceived threats to American policy abroad. What is radical is his redefinition of sovereignty, in his inaugural address, to include only democratic nations as having a right to sovereignty.

With this being said, I do not believe that Bush is planning anymore invasions like the Iraq War, unless he sees a clear and present danger. Bush will continue to "carry the big stick" of US policy, but as a deterrent. However, if the deterrent role fails he will not be afraid to use the military solution and it would be a grave mistake to think otherwise. He has learned that the price of military intervention is nation building (building democracy) and thus has no schedule for an exit from Iraq. He will exit when Iraq has a stable government or when that government asks the US to leave. He feels a moral responsibility to finish the job he started even if it is harder than he expected. This is why he did not present a timetable for bringing the troops home in the State of the Union speech.

On the other hand, I believe he recognizes that he has made mistakes in his first four years (even if he won't admit to them for political reasons).

Sean Curtin: He did not actually mention Iraq much by name in his address. At this juncture, I do not think it is possible to say when US-led coalition forces will be able to leave the country. Presumably, it will be quicker if Bush can internationalize the situation more. How do you feel relations with the EU will develop over the next four years?

Kevin Cooney: Bush does want to reach out to the EU and he intends to try to mend fences where possible and this is the reason he sent Condoleezza Rice on her "charm offensive" tour of European capitals. However, he will not compromise his principles. I believe that he views going to the UN before the Iraq War as one of his greatest mistakes in that it gave Saddam more time to plan the current insurgency, but that he also needs to work with America's European allies and the UN in order to build a more democratic world. He feels that if the world’s premiere democracies continue to be divided they will threaten his vision of a more democratic world. Bush like his predecessor, Bill Clinton, genuinely cares about the developing world and would like to work with Europe to secure the developing world from totalitarian forces.

Sean Curtin: The results of Iraq's historic election have been announced. The clear winner was the Shiite cleric-led United Iraqi Alliance (also known as the Shia List), which was "blessed" by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. It got about 4 million votes (4,075,295), equal to about 47.6 percent which gained them 140 seats in the 275-member National Assembly. In second place came the Kurdish Alliance (a coalition of the two main Kurdish factions) which gained an impressive 2,175,551 or 25.4 percent for 75 seats. In third place was the Iraqi List (headed by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi) with 1,168,943 votes or about 13.6 percent for 40 seats. How are these results being seen in the US?

Kevin Cooney: The Iraqi election was a great victory for the Iraqi people, but it is only the first step. The next step being the need to write a fair and equitable constitution and to ratify it. This will be an enormous task of willpower and negotiation for all factions involved. The Sunnis need to be given some say beyond their numbers in the new assembly or they will simply see no choice but to continue to fight. However, the Sunnis need to recognize that they will never have the power that they once had and that they now have a stake in securing rights for all Iraqis, not just themselves.

There are a few that are trying to redefine the election as a referendum against the US. The Iraqis clearly viewed the vote as one against the insurgents. The insurgents themselves even saw it that way. If these revisionists were right, the Shiite insurgent Sadr and the Sunni insurgents would have won and the collaborating al-Sistani and Allawi would not have done so well in the election. The role that the Kurds play in the new constitutional assembly will be critical to its success. The question will be whether the new assembly can resist turning the new Iraqi constitution into a theocratic one like Iran. I believe that they can.

The reaction of Europe seems to be to accept the election as legitimate and to move forward with their policies toward Iraq and the US. This will not mean any troops by EU nations who opposed US policy in Iraq, but it should mean a willingness to go forward with rebuilding Iraq. The EU needs to engage the Iraqi government and the US so that they are seen as part of the solution to the situation that exists. No matter the feelings about the war itself or Bush, Iraq needs international help to stabilize itself and to build a future. The more involved the rest of the world is in Iraq the more strength the Iraqi government has to be independent of the US.

Sean Curtin: I think almost every European was impressed by the bravery of the Iraqi people to go to the polls, despite the deadly terror threats. There is no doubt this was a legitimate election and I am sure the EU will be more active in assisting the newly elected Iraqi government. At the same time, the tragic assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, powerfully reminds Europeans that reconstructing Iraq will be a very long and difficult process, fraught with difficulties and setbacks, just like in Lebanon. Nevertheless, it is something that has to be done and I am certain the EU will do its best to support the nascent democracy of Iraq.

During her recent European visit, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sounded a positive note for the new Bush administration and I hope there will be greater US-EU cooperation on Iraq and other pressing global issues like global warming.

Kevin Cooney: Condoleezza Rice was a typical National Security Advisor as well as a close and private confidant of the President. Her job was to advise the president in private. Her lack of a public role largely enabled other people to define her politically and personally. Her role as Secretary of State, and particularly on this early European tour, will permit her to define herself. From what I saw over here in the USA, she impressed her European hosts. Given her background as a Russian and European expert this is not surprising. Condoleezza Rice is a very smart and intelligent woman with a lot of charm.

Sean Curtin: Secretary Rice certainly made great efforts to mend fences during her recent visit to Europe. In France she went out of her way to strike a reconciliatory note. Paris responded in kind, although relations with Washington are still less than warm, but that in itself is a great improvement. Overall, Dr. Rice made a very good impression.

Kevin Cooney: Condoleezza Rice is the most powerful American Secretary of State since Henry Kissinger. Bush listens to her and he, unlike most men, is very comfortable with strong intelligent women giving him advice. We need to remember that Secretary Rice was brought in during the 2000 campaign to tutor Bush in foreign and security issues. The two of them formed a strong bond of loyalty and trust that few advisors have shared with their presidents.

Rice will be the principle voice that Bush trusts when it comes to foreign policy in the next four years and the foreign ministers of Europe should have taken advantage of any chance to build working relationships with someone who is so close to President Bush. They also should keep in mind that Rice may be around for a long time in American politics. She does have her own political aspirations and some even see her as a very strong choice in 2008 for Vice President depending on the Republican nominee. A strong, intelligent African-American woman on the Republican ticket would make the Republicans very hard to beat in 2008 against any Democrat.

Sean Curtin: I was very impressed with Secretary Rice's performance during her London press conference. She came across as a very capable individual. I think it would be great if she or any woman stood for vice-president. Unlike Europe, the United States lags way behind in the representation of women at the political pinnacle. In Europe, and even the Islamic world, women leaders are not an uncommon sight. In contrast, the American presidency and vice presidency have been completely dominated by white males. The world would certainly welcome any move that saw a woman or ethnic minority occupy one of the two top slots in the US political pyramid.

Reference Links

George W. Bush's State of the Union Speech 2005
Official Iraq Election Results
Shiite Vision of Post-election Iraq

Results of Iraq's Election

The United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite alliance "blessed" by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani): 4,075,295 about 47.6 percent for 140 seats.

The Kurdistan Alliance (coalition of two main Kurdish factions): 2,175,551 about 25.4 percent for 75 seats.

The Iraqi List (headed by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi): 1,168,943 about 13.6 percent for 40 seats.

The remaining 20 seats were divided as follows

Iraqis (headed by interim Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer): 150,680 for five seats.

The Turkomen Iraqi Front (represents Iraq's Turks): 93,480 for three seats.

National Independent Elites and Cadres Party: 69,938 for three seats.

The Communist Party: 69,920 for two seats.

The Islamic Kurdish Society: 60,592 for two seats.

The Islamic Labor Movement in Iraq: 43,205 for two seats.

The National Democratic Alliance: 36,795 for one seat.

National Rafidain List (Assyrian Christians): 36,255 for one seat.

The Reconciliation and Liberation Entity: 30,796 for one seat.

Results of Parties that did not gain seats

Iraqi Islamic Party (main Sunni group headed by Mohsen Abdel-Hamid): 21,342

Assembly of Independent Democrats (headed by Sunni elder statesman Adnan Pachachi): 12,728

National Democratic Party (headed by Naseer Kamel al-Chaderchi, Sunni lawyer and member of the former Iraqi Governing Council): 1,603

Total votes: 8,550,571
Invalid votes: 94,305

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