It is hard to underestimate the imprint George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” speech left on U.S. foreign policy. The story has been unfolding ever since, with the invasion of Iraq, the disengagement from bilateral talks with North Korea that had been started under the Clinton Administration, and the continuing alienation from an emerging regional, and possibly nuclear, power in Iran. The Iraq war quickly degenerated into an anti-insurgency operation that remains far from a conclusive; North Korea has once again provoked the ire of the world with its nuclear tests; and, as for Iran, with an election currently underway, it may not be the ideal time for the U.S. to radically alter its approach, but its nuclear enrichment program remains an ongoing source of worry. In the meantime, events in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan have become grounds for serious concern. I know it appears all too easy to blame Bush and Cheney for all this, but eight years of misguided policies cannot be reversed overnight or even in the first year of a new presidency, however well-intentioned or promising it may be.
It has only been about one week since Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel visited President Obama, and policy differences between the two are emerging. While I believe it is too early to predict a Bibi-Obama collision course, it is clear events in the so-called neighbourhood, with Iran and its nuclear program as well as the the ongoing threat of terrorism, make progress very difficult. North Korea’s tests, meanwhile, only reinforce fears that two nations with a penchant for ignoring international opinion and sanctions could join the exclusive club of nuclear-armed countries. They also do nothing to alleviate concerns that nuclear technology might fall into the hands of terrorists—nothing to comfort Israel and other US allies.
The Obama Administration has inherited a dangerous world, full of treachery and always menacing to its national security. This world is largely the product of the failed Bush-Cheney policies. The fact that the former vice president, Dick Cheney, is out crusading for Gitmo remaining open and torture continuing as part of the national security strategy of the United States should not make us forget that he was a major architect of this dangerous world. Everyday that Cheney speaks, we realize that his former boss was derelict in his duty to uphold the Constitution. As a result, Obama and the rest of the world are left fighting off the Bush hangover.