Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Bush Administration Inconsistent on Terrorism

After coldly neglecting to mention the crisis in Russia durring his convention speech, George W. Bush is now taking a position on the tragedy. He has used the event to make it clear to the world that no country gets a free passon terrorism. Interpretation: Russia didn't support the U.S. in Iraq, why should we support them now. Bush is still championing the mantra that you're with us or with the terrorists.

The problem with this mentality is that it alienates potential partners in combatting terrorism and isolates the United States. If it's our way or no way, it is difficult to develop a truly cooperative effort. Countries have different and diverging interests, but it is in the interest of both the U.S. and Russia to minimize the threat posed by terrorists.

Not only has Bush taken a subtle geopolitical jab at the Russians, but his administration has argued that the Kremlin should have negotiated with the attackers. From the Russian perspective, this is akin to suggesting that bin Ladin should come to the White House to negotiate his terms.

It is true that the Chechens have a political agenda and perhaps the Russians could have prevented the masacre and past attacks by negotiating or changing their policy. But let us not forget, al Qauida also has a political agenda and it is fairly clear that they are attacking our people, not because they hate our "freedom" or way of life, but because they disagree with our policies in the middle east, primarily our bases in Saudi Arabia and support for Israel.

I am not suggesting that we should change our policies based on the demand of a terrorist organization, but to suggest that they are simply "evil" and "madmen" who hate us, is a shortcut to thinking. Should we negotiate with a group that resorts to such violent means in an effort to fufill their political wishes?

Similarly,the Chechens do not simply hate the Russians, they have taken issue with what they view as threatening policies on the part of the Russian government. The Russians didn't change, so they have resorted to terrorism. Should the Russians be expected to negotiate?

All in all, it is a complicated matter and should be treated as such. Attempting to fit this horrific event into the rubric of Bush's political catch phrases is a mistake and threatens to disrupt what could be a valuable parnership in fighting terrorism. Rather than exploiting the incident to brow beat the Russians over Iraq, the U.S.should seize the opportunity to seek common ground against a shared threat.