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Bush Administration Challenged by Multiple Global Crises

The Bush administration is facing a series of simultaneous foreign policy crises from the Middle East to the Korean peninsula. The U.S. military is already heavily committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some foreign policy experts say President Bush has little flexibility to deal with new global challenges.

From renewed fighting in the Middle East… and worsening security in Afghanistan... to ongoing violence in Iraq… the Bush administration is caught in a whirlwind of global crises.

Ken Pollack is a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution research group in Washington D.C. He says, "I think there's no question that the whole series of foreign policy problems that the Bush administration is confronting, coupled with the ongoing war in Iraq and the troubles it's creating, is limiting the freedom of maneuver [movement] of the Bush administration."

Pollack and other foreign policy experts say the Bush administration faces such a long list of world problems that it has lost the leverage it once had in foreign policy.

Israel and the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon are escalating their attacks. Iran has not responded to requests to suspend its nuclear program. And suicide bombers in Afghanistan are adopting the tactics of Iraqi insurgents.

Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues to rage, and some argue the United States has lost much of its international support for efforts to build democracy in the region.

Laurence Korb was Assistant Secretary of Defense for President Ronald Reagan. He thinks, "[The] Bush doctrine met the real world and it collapsed. There's no way you can go around waging preventive wars against all of your enemies."

Some foreign policy experts say countries such as Iran and North Korea are taking advantage of what they see as the weak position of the United States.

Danielle Pletka is vice president for foreign policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C. "The perception by others -- particularly countries who have interests inimical to our own -- is that we are bogged down in Iraq, that we are distracted and tired by Iraq, and now is a good moment to push the envelope, to test the United States," she says.

North Korea has tested the United States recently by launching seven missiles. The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution demanding that North Korea suspend its ballistic missile program.

Still, former senior U.S. State Department official Randall Schriver believes the Bush administration has not focused sufficiently on diplomacy in Asia.

"I don't think it's a secret when you have ongoing war in the Middle East, when you have the kinds of challenges we're facing, yes, it's going to occupy time, attention, resources. But my view is you've got to make Asia a priority," says Schriver.

Bush administration officials say the United States is in a stronger diplomatic position now than it was during Mr. Bush's first term. They say they are engaged in more aggressive multilateral diplomacy than ever before. But most foreign policy experts agree the Bush administration has so many global commitments that it may not be able to act unilaterally, as it has in the past.