Now, a disclaimer of sorts.
"Another War-on-Terror Blog" is not a political blog. However, since the War on Terror and politics do sometimes collide, I can't avoid the topic entirely.
I make no claim to be unbiased. I don't believe that America is the cause of the global crisis of the month. I do enjoy living in a society where I'm not expected to put my wife under a burqa, or kill my children if they besmirch the family honor.
That said, here's the meat of this post.
I think that individuals matter. Particularly individuals who are in a position to make decisions.
"Cowboy diplomacy" has been used to describe the dangerous, big, rough way that President Bush has conducted international affairs. The Texas-raised president isn't even a lawyer. Unlike most of the better sort in Washington, this Texan went to Harvard: Harvard Business School.
Since words and phrases have specific meanings, I decided to look up just what "cowboy diplomacy" meant.
The "Cowboy diplomacy" article in Wikipedia is one of those with references: and an "orphaned" one, with "few or no other articles" linking to it.
According to Wikipedia, cowboy diplomacy is "a term used by critics to describe the resolution of international conflicts through brash risk-taking, intimidation, military deployment, or a combination of such tactics."
The term's current incarnation is as a quote from the wit and wisdom of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise-D. Specifically, in the "Unification, Part II" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, an American television series.
Back in the real world, American President Bush has caused much alarm and despondency - and anger - at his failure to follow time-honored standards of leadership. Instead of
- Directing diplomats to discuss the arrangement of tables at meetings (anybody remember Vietnam?)
- Forming study committees to investigate how to engage in dialog with all members of the international community regarding the complex issues
- Carefully considering the opinions of leaders in the international community: particularly the French
- Making brash remarks like
- "And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists."
- "But we're also tough and resolute. And now is an opportunity to do generations a favor, by coming together and whipping terrorism; hunting it down, finding it and holding them accountable."
- "Terrorism against our nation will not stand."
- Unilaterally going it alone in attacking terror-supporting nations (the "uni" in unilaterally" must not mean "one" - a couple dozen nations have been involved in the 'coalition of the willing' at one point or another)
- Stubbornly refusing to let the seasoned wisdom of the international community - particularly France - determine American policy
On the other hand, I think that the conventional wisdom of avoiding armed conflict at all costs, or at least deferring it until someone else's watch, is dangerous, too.
America is a little over a year away from presidential elections. I expect to hear the phrase "cowboy diplomacy," coupled with an assurance that, should this or that candidate be elected, there will be no more such direct action.
There's a time and a place for seemingly endless rounds of meetings, resolutions, and declarations.
I also think that there is a place for taking action. And, I would prefer that the action take place before another 9/11 slips past law enforcement and the diplomatic corps.
Finally presidents practicing "cowboy diplomacy" predate the starship Enterprise by at least a generation. "The sources of international brutality, wherever they exist, must be absolutely and finally broken down. . . . We are going to win the war, and we are going to win the peace that follows." (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, December 9, 1941)
(see "Watch for Weird Words: Election's Coming Up!")
Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.