Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Josef Joffe seems to think that a comparison exists (and makes it) between GWB and Otto Von Bismarck. His reasoning? Prussia before WWI, like the United States now, was powerful but afraid of a concerted response from other powers, and like Bismarck Bush is doing his best to make his country indispensible and keep potential opponents from banding together. It's not a bad theory, but it has some holes.

First, none of the actions that Joffe cites (making friends with Russia, trying to keep India and Pakistan friendly with the US, toning down anti-chinese rhetoric, and trying to mediate in the middle east) necessarily prove that this particular style of diplomacy is the one Bush adheres to. All of these things are useful for the United States in a more general strategic sense, and could probably fit in dozens of strategic plans. Why just Bismarcks, a plan suited for a "balance of power" that simply doesn't exist anymore?

Second, I don't really see the connection between these actions- that there's even a guiding goal for all this, instead of Bush's simple reactions to what's already going on around him. The administration is known to be quite divided- I doubt Bismarck was lead around by his (contradicting) advisors instead of leading himself. There's no reason to believe there is really a grand strategic plan, instead of vague strategic goals being vaguely followed. The cohesion that Joffe is trying to find just isn't there.

Third, One of the big connections and fundamental goals for Bismarck was keeping France isolated from the world community so as to prevent that country from getting its revenge on Prussia for Frances' humiliation in the Franco-Prussian war. Where is the equivalent nowadays? The terrorists hardly count, and if he's trying to use this strategy against the "axis of evil" countries he's failing spectacularly, so much so I have to wonder if he's even doing it at all.

Fourth, and most importantly: Bismarck's actions led to WWI. Bush (or at least his advisors) knows that, and I honestly doubt that they'd be engaging a strategy that led to World War, considering the nightmarish possibilities that exist when one considers the eventual end of the "War on Terrorism". Even the most hawkish Bush advisor wants to avoid WWIII.

It's a nice theory, Josef, but it just doesn't fit the situation at hand.

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