Multilateralists are convinced that second-term Bush will embrace themby Charles Grant / December 18, 2004 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2004 issue of Prospect Magazine
In the aftermath of George W Bush’s victory, Atlanticists and multilateralists in both Europe and America are immersed in gloom. Bush fought on a platform of “America first,” criticising his opponent for being too willing to consult allies and defer to the UN. The conservatives who dominate the Republican party do not see why they should treat Europe with greater respect. Meanwhile, many senior European policymakers who struggled to work with the first Bush administration are appalled at the idea of having to deal with an even more truculent and self-confident team in the second term. Some of them see little point in making an effort to engage the US.
But the security problems faced by the US and the EU are too grave for either the nationalist Americans or the ignore-the-US Europeans to tackle on their own. Thankfully, many senior figures in the Bush entourage understand this. They know there are two ways for a US president to become multilateralist. One is through instinct, as with Bill Clinton. The other way is through experience, when unilateral routes have been exhausted. Thus Bush is pursuing six-party talks as the best means of getting North Korea to abandon its plans for nuclear weapons. Bush also knows that bodies such as the UN security council and the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) have their uses: security council resolutions have given at least some legitimacy to the Allawi government in Iraq, while IAEA inspections have revealed that Iran has breached commitments that it gave on its nuclear energy programme. Bush’s second term could turn out more multilateralist than the first, for many of the problems he faces cannot be easily tackled without the help of allies and international organisations.