For many, the year 2004 was dominated by the ongoing conflict in Iraq. From questions over the justifications for the 2003 invasion, to the menace of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden, this past year was a year riddled with violence and crisis. Rich Hanley, Professor and director of graduate programs in the school of Communications at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut and Richard Stoll, professor of political science at Rice University in Houston, Texas share their reviews of politics and events, as we look back at 2004.
On the subject of the war in Iraq and President Bush's anti-terrorism policy, Rich Hanley had this to say.
The war in Iraq certainly gave the Bush Administration a platform on which to build an anti-terrorism effort in 2004. Whether it worked is another question, but it certainly served as the springboard to attack terrorism in other points around the world and to show the world that the United States would not tolerate any more attacks on its soil. However, the war in Iraq hasn't gone well at all in terms of the Americans' ability to pacify the country and it is till open warfare in many cities. The United States doesn't control many areas of the country; whether or not it ever will be able to control parts of that country is open to question and that remains to be seen and whether the elections scheduled for January 2005 will go off as planned is also something that is called into question. -- given the strength of the insurgency and how that insurgency will influence the events of the future.
Professor Stoll expresses the same view.
I think he and his administration feel that the war worked, but I think most people who take a closer look will see that there really wasn't in terms of a threat to the United States it was very very little terrorism that was being supported by Iraq. And there is probably more going on in Iraq right now than there was prior to the start of the war. Unfortunately I think what this war has shown is that is it very difficult to use military force to bring democracy or even stability to a country; that that is an entirely different kind of operation and one I feel that the United States was not really prepared to do and now we are stuck doing it and we have got to make the best of it.
In Africa, many countries continue to have urgent global threats. From the continuing conflict in Sudan, combating HIV/Aids pandemic, to extreme poverty, Professor Hanley says the United States efforts in 2004 when it came to affairs in Africa were modest.
Our efforts have been modest in Africa, but they have been better than most countries. We need to step up our performance there. We need to give them more aid, more debt forgiveness and essentially turn over a large part of our operation to the United Nations to ensure that the food gets to the hungry, the medicine gets to the people who are sick and that we support the democratically elected leadership in these countries. This is a very very important part of any sort of economic recovery or any inoculation against future famine in the Sudan. We need to make sure that we support democracy in these countries and have an accountable leadership that will make sure that people are taken care of that the aid goes to the people who need it most and not to the coffers of a ruling junta or other cronies of the government.
Professor Stoll says the United States can only do so much.
Well, for the point of view of the results we would like to see clearly it has not been enough. I think on the other hand you can't fault the United States for wanting to make an effort as part of an international effort that is through the United Nations making use of other African countries etc etc. On the other hand the problem with that in most cases is the countries are reluctant to do anything or simply don't have the capability to do it. I think there are several countries in Africa where there is really no effective government, and I'm really hard pressed to see how even if you had all the resources you possibly could ask, for that you are going to get an effective government put in power. So I think there are long-term issues and there is no really easy solution. The United States can and should do more, but I don't think that would automatically mean life would get better for people living in those countries.
Although the same issues appear on the horizon for 2005, Iraq remains the chief foreign policy test for the United States. So what would be an overall grade for the Bush Administration for 2004? Professor Hanley says…
Given the complexities of this situations, global terrorism, the war in Iraq, the need to massage international relations, the need to monitor the transmission of illness from country to country in a globalized environment …… I think I would give the Bush administration a C, meaning an average grade. They didn't do things well but they didn't do things all that badly given the potential for disaster in so many areas.
Professor Stoll is in general agreement with that grade.
In terms of foreign policy I would give them no better than a C-minus. Hopefully they have learned that using military force while it can be effective in the short term does not solve all your problems. I would hope they have learned that no matter how capable we are we can not solve this problems by ourselves and they need to do a lot of work mending fences with our traditional allies as well as other countries throughout the world if they are going to be successful in achieving their goals. So maybe next year I will give them a better grade, right now I don't think they have handled things very well.