Bush Faces Foreign Policy Challenges as Second Term Begins



Four years ago, when he began his first term in the White House, George W. Bush had little foreign policy experience. But events would change that. His second term begins with new challenges.

As he prepares for his second term, President Bush faces more foreign policy challenges than he did four years ago. Iraq and the war on terrorism, which defined his first term in the White House, will likely still dominate his international agenda. But other issues remain including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, weapons proliferation, China's emergence as a global power and the Asian tsunami disaster.

With his familiar foreign policy team of Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, there will be consistency in the implementation of his foreign policies.

Ms. Rice replaces Colin Powell, who was often the lone, dissenting voice on foreign policy in the president's first term. She is considered the theoretical architect of Mr. Bush's worldview, characterized by a tough stance against terrorists.

"We have to fight the war that they started and that means that we have to take the war to them and we have to fight this war on the offensive," she said.

Helle Dale, Director of Foreign Policy and Defense Studies at Washington's Heritage Foundation, sees no separation now between the president and his secretary of state.

"And I think you'll find when she talks, people will feel more comfortable, they're listening to really what the president thinks," he said.

Yet, Robert Pastor, Vice President of International Affairs at Washington's American University says this could be a problem.

"It may be more negative in the sense that she does not have a lot of experience as a diplomat or in negotiations and does reflect the side of President Bush that says you're either with us or against us," he said.

That approach soured ties with several longtime allies during the President's first term. White House officials and analysts such as Helle Dale, say healing those wounds will be one of the administration's top priorities.

"I think you'll see an effort to reach out more to cooperate with other allies, to mend some of the fences broken in the first Bush administration when the focus was so heavily on national security, the war on terrorism and Iraq," he said.

The president may also have an opportunity to mend fences in the Middle East. Mr. Bush has signaled his desire to join with other nations in forging a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

"If all parties will apply effort, if all nations who are concerned about this issue will apply good will, this conflict will end and peace will be achieved, and the time for that effort and the time for that good will is now," the president said.

Robert Pastor says this step is necessary to improve relations with Arab countries and to succeed in Iraq.

"Because all of the Arab countries are focused much more on Palestine then they are on Iraq and to get their cooperation on Iraq we have to demonstrate to them that we are sincerely interested in peace in Palestine," he said.

The president also faces challenges elsewhere, in North Korea and Iran. Both nations have nuclear aspirations and proliferation experts warn that either regime could spark a regional nuclear arms race. It is also feared they could provide nuclear material to terrorists. With few military options, the Bush administration continues to pursue multi-lateral diplomacy.

For this approach to work, some diplomats believe Mr. Bush will need to work more closely with the United Nations. The Bush - U.N. relationship has at times been tense, so Mr. Pastor expects Mr. Bush to pick and choose his battles there very carefully.

"President Bush will turn to the U.N. in areas that he feels he needs their help and stiff arm the United Nations in areas that he feels he can either do it himself or in which he feels the U.N. might not be supportive," he said.

With his decisive reelection victory, a more confident George W. Bush believes he now has a mandate to move forward with his policies. It will not be easy. There will be resistance in some foreign capitals. And the future of Iraq remains uncertain. How he handles all this in the next four years will shape his foreign policy legacy.

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