George W. Bush Faces a Tough Second Term

Posted in United States | 23-Dec-04 | Author: Dieter Farwick

President Bush's first inauguration.

George W. Bush wanted to be re-elected in spite of the challenging agenda he would face in his second term. He knows from his first term that being the President of the lone superpower United States of America is not a cakewalk in the sun. He obviously has the vision and the conviction as well as the stamina to lead the country to a better and safer future.

The stakes are high and well-known: Domestic problems, war on terror, counter proliferation, the conflicts in and around Iraq, Israel/Palestine and Afghanistan, the tensions with Iran and North Korea and the competition with China and an eroding NATO. This agenda does not allow a time-out and there is no fresh start.

The unstable world needs a hegemon, but it should be a cooperative one. Even the superpower USA will not be capable of dealing with all the problems that lie ahead. The United States should look for a prudent division of labor and for fair burden sharing to avoid the “imperial overstretch” that caused the fall of “great powers” in the past.

It will not be easy to find those partners in Asia or Europe. During his visit to Europe, the president should not expect too much. He will meet political leaders who would have preferred John Kerry as president. However, personalities are not the real source of the problems. Many Europeans do not like the present unipolar world dominated by the “hyperpuissance” US – regardless who the president might be. They aim for a multipolar world with a kind of power sharing. But – they do not have the political resolve to put the necessary capabilities on the table. Thus, autonomous European military capabilities are an illusion.

George W.Bush will not win back the hearts and minds of the majority of sceptical Europeans by just one visit and some speeches, but he should try to restart cooperation within concrete areas and common objectives: In the Broader Middle East – from Marrakech to Bangladesh - and in the Mediterranean region.

The upcoming elections in Iraq and Afghanistan must be a – at least modest – success for democracy, stability and security. In this context, there are more common interests than some observers believe. Europe’s future depends heavily on security and stability in this region, whether it likes it or not. NATO should be the forum to discuss the risks and threats we face and to find a way to pursue overlapping interests as well as to allocate the necessary resources.

George W. Bush should use his inauguration speech and his visit to Europe to show the world that he has learned the lessons from his first term. One area with a lot of room for improvement is “public diplomacy”. One prerequisite for successful “public diplomacy” is a good product – good governance.

With this newsletter we want to offer some ideas about what the old and new president should do to make the world safer and better.