Note that this question does not ask if we should we bend to whatever the rest of the world wants. Nor does it say that we would not act unless we had international agreement. Rather, it says that when we are taking actions, we will be more successful if we have broad support from around the world. This means we would get troop, monetary, intelligence, and reconstruction support. However it would also mean that we would not find ourselves on the business end of trade sanctions (as has happened in the past 2 years for the steel and other industries) and other unrelated international activity due to the strains on our relations.
To date, this is the point that the Bush administration has missed. As we have seen, there was no growing and gathering threat in Iraq that would have prohibited us from continuing to work with the rest of the international community. Granted, it is "possible" that we shouldn't have know better given the intelligence we had, however war was not the only option. We could get sidetracked by talking about this in greater detail, but that isn't my point here. Rather, the point is that Bush actually campaigns on the basis that he will act alone whenever necessary. The seeming ease with which he casts off the concerns of potential allies borders on being overly cavalier. If this was really his policy, this approach ultimately serves to hurt our economy, as friction generated between countries does not simply vanish when it comes to non-security related issues.
And yet the fascinating part of this, is that Bush isn't actually following this "act alone" model, despite the frequency with which he advocates it. He certainly did in Iraq, making the case that America will not sit on the sidelines, waiting for other countries to decide what to do to make us safe. However, when it comes to the other two members of the Axis of Evil, the ones that either do have nuclear weapons or are about to have them, President Bush has stated that he is relying on other countries to handle the situation.
In the case of North Korea, the President said that the best way to handle that existing nuclear threat is to disengage from the process entirely and to let the local Asian countries figure it out. With regard to Iran, he stated in the second debate that he is letting France, Germany, and the U.K. put the pressure on this burgeoning nuclear nation. In one case, he won't even get involved, and the other, he is letting two countries who opposed us in our last security effort lead the charge (including France who is rapidly being shown to have been complicit with our recent "greatest enemy" - Saddam). This shows three things. First, it shows that there IS another option to war when faced with a country that has WMD's, something which we lost sight of in Iraq. Second, it shows that Bush also has a "global test" of his own in that he is not acting on his own (and in the case of North Korea, not at all). Third, it shows that he will at times place the security of our country in the hands of other countries, even those that have not shown themselves to be acting in our own best interest of late.
To be intellectually honest, Bush shouldn't be saying that he will "not rely on other countries to defend us", but rather he should be saying that he won't "rely on other countries to defend us, unless we don't have the resources available to do it ourselves, in which case we will hope for the best." Bush is trying to capitalize on the emotional value of statements that speak to him protecting us at all costs, and not being beholden to anyone at all, ever, under any circumstance. And yet, he can't actually do this in practice, not because he doesn't want to, but because we don't have the resources.
You see, we went into Iraq virtually alone, from a monetary and boots on the ground standpoint, because we could. We did it because we had the troops available. But, now that we are stretched thin, we don't have the luxury of pursuing those countries that are a threat to us right now. By not being more thoughtful, or at the very least careful, about which effort we chose to engage in, we have now been forced to leave our security to the efforts of those countries that didn't even support us in Iraq. Further, it has led to our administration waffling in the face of terror threats in Russia. Again, rather than being intellectually honest and attacking the terror attacks in Russia, we have instead labeled it a political issue that Russia should negotiate it's way out of. This has led to open and public showings of contempt by Russian officials, stating that "some Western powers" are supporting these (Chechian) terrorists (referring to the U.S. granting asylum to two of their leaders, and telling Russia to negotiate with terrorists). By saying he will protect us at all costs, Bush hopes to use our emotions to gain support. However, the downside is that he is also alienating our country from the rest of the world, not only for our security, but for our economic needs as well.
Finally, despite saying that he would not rely on other countries for our security, we now see Bush scheduling a G8 Summit to discuss the topic of Iran. The U.S. cannot get full international support for dealing with Iran, and we are unprepared to do anything on our own. When asked direct questions during the debates, Bush routinely answered that other countries were applying pressure on Iran. I'll leave you with this final clip from a CNN article today.
"In September, the head of the IAEA concluded there was concrete evidence Iran was deceiving the international community about its nuclear energy program and moving ahead with a clandestine program to develop nuclear weapons.
The U.S. has been unable to win international support for an automatic trigger to refer Iran's case to the United Nations for possible economic sanction if it does not halt its uranium enrichment program in coming weeks.
The intelligence indicates a growing and gathering threat in Iran. The clock is ticking, and the rest of the world is not acting quickly. Bush maintains that the G8 and the UN Security Council are the appropriate tools for handling this growing crisis. So which is it? Follow the Iraq model of "doing whatever is necessary", or let France and Germany protect us by following the North Korea model of "let the other countries handle it"? With the exception of stump speeches and debate one-liners, all indications from the Bush administration are the latter.
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