We could replace Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with Barney Fife and see an immediate improvement in the conduct of U.S. Foreign Policy. Barney, at least, had enough gumption to stand up to Sheriff Taylor from time to time, which is a lot more than you can say about Condi's relationship with her boss, Dick Cheney. So I was glad indeed to see House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) go to Syria and speak with President Bashar al-Asad.
Critics of Pelosi's trip to Syria claim she encroached on Mr. Bush's "constitutional" privilege to unfettered control of foreign policy. The latest Rovewellian talking point says that's why Congress doesn't have its own State Department. Well, our current executive branch doesn't have a State Department either, at least not a functioning one. What passes for a State Department under this regime is a propaganda arm of the Department of Defense, and the most important person in it is not Condi, but Karen Hughes, the Texas crony who Mr. Bush appointed as Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs.
Can She Do That?
Naturally, in criticizing Pelosi's trip to Syria, the White House neglected to mention that a Republican delegation had done the very same thing on April 1. But that sort of thing is SHP (standard hypocritical procedure) in the Bush administration.
A serious question does arise, however, as to whether members of Congress should be making diplomatic visits to nations the executive branch has shunned. It certainly would have been inappropriate if the House Speaker had gone to speak with
Adolph Hitler on the eve of the D-Day invasion without the blessing of Franklin Roosevelt. But that's a whole lot different from the situation we're looking at with Syria today.
For starters, we're not at war (declared on undeclared) with Syria. Yes, the State Department has named Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism, but at this point, who cares what the State Department has to say about anything? Nothing in the Constitution empowers State to "declare" who America's enemies are. What's more, Saudi Arabia isn't on the terrorist sponsor list, and we all know where the 9/11 attackers came from, don't we?
Arguments that the executive branch enjoys sole control of foreign policy don't hold water. All treaties have to be ratified by two thirds of the Senate. Congress has exclusive authority, according to the Constitution, to declare war, to maintain and regulate the military, and to fund foreign aid. Are congressional leaders to keep their noses out of the foreign policy process and simply act as a rubber stamp for the executive's dictates? I think not. We've just witnessed six years of that sort of thing, and it hasn't turned out so well.
As to whether there's a danger in sending "mixed signals" to the international community regarding our foreign policy intentions, I say there's more danger in not sending mixed signals. We can no longer afford to let the rest of the world think that the Bush administration's policies reflect the will of the American body politic.
The efforts of Nancy Pelosi and others to shore up the foreign policy damage done by the Bush administration won't likely have an immediate effect. Any good that Pelosi accomplishes over the next two years will be kneecapped by Condi Rice's bumbling and Dick Cheney's sinister influence. Nonetheless, it's important for the Pelosi's in our government to begin reaching out now. American foreign policy is already bow down in a sand dune. We can't wait until early 2009 to begin the damage control effort.
A new world order emerged when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and America became the world's sole superpower. The next world order began in 2003 with the staged toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad. Since that time, the moist neoconservative dream of global domination through military force has been proven impotent. The neoconservatives have refused to recognize that their delusional philosophy has failed, and continue to pursue it, caring little that it's clearly leading to a post-modern Gottendammerung for the United States.
The challenge in the post-Bush II era will be to reestablish America as a benevolent (but still strong) first among nations, what Ronald Reagan envisioned as the "shining city on the hill" that would inspire, not bully, the rest of the world to strive toward a new era of peace and prosperity.
That will take a lot of work, and the time to start is now. So I say that if Nancy Pelosi wants to grab the foreign policy initiative away from Mr. Bush, let her.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.