George W Bush has won a second term as President of the United States. He has done so with an increased electoral advantage and this in the context of the largest voter turn out ever. Despite the trials and tribulations of the previous four years the Bush administration has received a mandate from the people - taking both the popular vote and the Electoral College.
Concurrently, the Republican Party made advances in the Senate and in the governorship races reflecting that the shift to the right of American political sentiment is not secondary to its platform, but is a defining feature of political representation at all levels. Given the international controversy over American foreign policy and the intense interest that the election has generated overseas, what will the world make of the results of November 2, 2004?
The world generally cares little for American domestic issues such as gay marriage and so will focus on the fact that Bush has a clear mandate for his proposed - and an endorsement of his past - foreign policies. Specifically this means the world will take note that the American people are in favour of preemption, they support the war on Iraq and prefer a unilateralist foreign policy. Countries have expectations of American foreign policy according to past relationships and future expectations. There are several distinct geopolitical groupings.
The first group, the close allies of the first Bush administration, are diversified in geography but unified in their strident support of the administration’s foreign policy. This group includes countries where the gamble associated with supporting America in Iraq has paid off. They include Poland, Australia, Great Britain and Japan. They can expect to have their alliances with America strengthened by pay offs in defence along with economic and political benefits.
Poland gains a firm strategic ally, access to first-line military technology and an elevated stature as it positions itself to be an important future voice within NATO and the European Union.
Australia, which recently returned its conservative leader, Prime Minister John Howard, with a convincing majority, will persist in making its claim to a place in world affairs as a “western nation” by choosing an “American orientated” rather than the more geopolitically logical “Asia orientated” foreign policy.
Great Britain uses its relationship with Bush to overcome the reality of its weak - and getting weaker - claim as a first rank nation. Its leader, Prime Minister Blair must be drawing comfort from the electoral victories of both John Howard and George Bush.
Japan will consolidate its continued dependency on America and buy itself time to continue with its gradual political and economic reformation in relation to its place in world affairs.
Russia is a subtler ally, conspicuous more by its lack of obstruction rather than for its committal of resources. It can be expected to continue to exercise muscle in its sphere of influence, which includes Chechnya and extends over the Caucasus.
The second group includes the principal detractors of the Bush administration famously characterised by Donald Rumsfeld as “Old Europe”. Germany and France are the primary members with the other Western European countries playing along sympathetically. These countries must now to come to terms with doing business not only with a second Bush administration, but the revelation that Mr Bush’s victory signals a fundamental and permanent shift in American foreign policy, which will probably outlast the next four years. We can expect to see reconciliatory steps taken as a matter of pragmatism on the part of the leaders of these countries in the near future. On the specific issue of Iraq, this group, while avoiding committing troops, will likely treat the matter as “water under the bridge” and focus on the political reintegration of Iraq into the world community as a stable supplier of petroleum.
Then there is North and South Asia. The so far politically quiet behemoth, China, will read the belligerency of the Bush administration as a hyper-nationalist imperative. These are terms it can instinctively respond to as it asserts it own nationalist self-confidence as its economy grows exponentially. We can expect a steadily louder beat of the Chinese drum in world affairs while occasionally putting America in its place when it enters what China sees as its sphere of influence. The most obvious issue would be Taiwan. Here, surprisingly, we may find the Bush administration will be willing - because it represents big business - to do political business with China. The Taiwanese leadership may find themselves out on a limb if they maintain their call for independence.
“Freedom” may prove an elastic concept when the administration has to choose between rhetoric and dollars. South Korea has already received strong indications that the US security umbrella will be shortening the shadow of its shade due to an overstretched military.
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