Sunday, December 14
How to Alienate Your Friends, At Home and Abroad
Bush's Puzzling Actions Leave Even Neo-Con Backers Wondering

by Tim Harper, Toronto Star, December 14, 2003

Here's how you make friends in George W. Bush's world.

You bar countries from sharing in some $18.6 billion (U.S.) in Iraqi reconstruction contracts, then later the same day, you pick up the phone and ask the leaders of those very countries to be nice to your personal envoy, James Baker, when he comes calling this week asking you to forgive the money Iraq owes you.

Here's how you welcome your northern neighbor's new prime minister.

You let your official spokesperson say how much you look forward to working with Paul Martin, then you make sure Canada is similarly shut out of reconstruction contracts, ignoring the financial help from Ottawa and the deaths of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan fighting your war on terrorism.

Here's how you keep Europe guessing.

You send your defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to meet with the counterparts he once dismissed as "old Europe" and have him extend an olive branch, leading to widespread speculation that the U.S.-Europe rift is on the mend.

Then, you yank on the stitches by poking fun at German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's suggestion that your reconstruction policy could violate international law by glibly saying, as Bush did Friday: "International law? I better call my lawyer; he didn't bring that up to me."

And here's how to alienate your neo-con base.

You make a major speech on the quest for democracy in the Middle East, calling it your Number 1 priority and saying your work must be continued by successive presidents for decades to come.

Then, a couple of weeks later, when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao comes calling, you make him happy by telling Taiwan it cannot hold a democratic referendum.

Put it all together and your list of detractors includes United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan; governments in France, Germany, Russia and Canada; commentators on the left and right; and your own party's senior congressional leadership.

Even factoring in Bush's go-it-alone, with-us-or-against-us style, last week's developments caused no end of puzzlement.
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