As George Kennan observed 50 years ago in American Diplomacy, American foreign policy has been periodically affected by bouts of evangelical idealism, which date from the country's Puritan founding and which have led Americans to seek to transform the world in our image -- and to demonize any country or regime that stands in the way. Since September 11, a group of Washington neoconservatives, some of whom serve under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, have attempted to define America's objectives in the Middle East and the war against terrorism in these evangelical terms. Arrayed against them have been Secretary of State Colin Powell and his principal ally and mentor, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.
Since taking office, George W. Bush has aggressively rolled back environmental regulations and initiatives. What he hasn't achieved by changing the rules he has done by reducing the staff devoted to enforcing them. According to a study by AIR Daily, the number of air-quality inspectors fell by 12 percent this year, and the number of inspections fell by 34 percent from the administration's first year. Bush's animus toward environmental legislation is personal and ideological, but it is also integral to his 2004 re-election strategy.
For anyone critical of the Bush administration's foreign policy, there seemed much to cheer about in German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's re-election last month. Schröder, after all, had made opposition to U.S. war plans in Iraq the centerpiece of his party's campaign. To a liberal or a progressive, there also appeared to be grounds for optimism in the Social Democratic Party's (SPD) and the Green Party's victory over their conservative rivals, particularly in the wake of social democratic defeats in Denmark, France and Holland. But appearances can deceive.
Republican candidates are beating the war drums just as support for invading Iraq is dissipating. Whereas a Gallup Poll last November revealed 74 percent in favor of a ground invasion of Iraq and 20 percent opposed, this August the percentage of those in favor plummeted to 53, with 41 percent opposed -- roughly the same margin that existed before September 11.
Critics of the bush administration's Iraq policy finally stepped forward -- and they are Republicans rather than Democrats. Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel and former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger argue that the United States should attempt to contain Saddam Hussein diplomatically while giving equal, if not more, weight to securing Afghanistan and achieving peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.