Leading by example

By August 9, 2007Article, Atlantic Eye

YEKATERINBURG, Russia, Aug. 9 (UPI) — President Bush has advocated creating democracy worldwide — a meritorious goal whose strategic implementation has been an abject failure. But there are some examples for doing it right.

They can be found in the most recent National Intelligence Estimate, in the six-party talks, in the government of Australia and in Nobel Laureate F.W. de Klerk.

The U.S. NIEs are produced by the National Intelligence Council and express the coordinated view of the 16 intelligence agencies. The most recent NIE on terrorist threats was released in late July. It shows that under Bush’s watch the world has become less safe.

It did not have to be this way.

Bush lambasted the Clinton administration for failing to stem the growth of al-Qaida. And while the Bush administration spends $50,000 every minute in Iraq, the NIE shows that under Bush’s watch al-Qaida has grown more powerful in rural Pakistan — more entrenched, more dangerous.

The administration should have been more focused, spent more time and more money hunting down Osama bin Laden — the murderous planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Instead it has spent nearly $1 trillion destabilizing Iraq. In fact, it has managed to destabilize the whole planet. It is like a child putting its foot on an ant hill or rattling a beehive. It is like the boy who cries wolf and wonders why after some time no one listens.

And what was Bush’s reaction to the report? He celebrated himself and the success of his administration’s anti-terrorist and security policies. Last I knew U.S. domestic surveillance laws were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, an appeals court recommended closing Guantanamo in Cuba, and even Bush’s closest allies are exasperated that he hasn’t delivered on most everything in Iraq.

The Bush administration has developed a reputation for advocating what it cannot deliver.

A notable exception are the six-party talks, whose success is mostly due to the perseverance of U.S. Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill, Japan’s Kenichiro Sasae, Korea’s Chun Yung-woo and their colleagues Vice Minister Wu Dawei of China and Deputy Minister Alexander Losyukov of Russia. Hill was blocked and undermined at nearly every turn by his own government as he tried to negotiate with the DPRK. He had wanted to engage in direct negotiations with the DPRK at least two years ago. Finally, he was given the green light to do so. The talks have made first results — though they are far from over.

Australia is one of 10 countries with diplomatic relations with North Korea. For nearly five years Global Panel and the Prague Society have advocated direct negotiations with the North. This has included the proposed establishment of the Korean Peninsula/North Korea Investment Fund. We have advocated bringing Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom into a second parallel working group on the issue of the DPRK.

This week Foreign Minister Alexander Downer invited his North Korean counterpart, Pak Ui Chun, to visit him in Canberra. This is the right decision and a good step. Downer, who has been our guest in Prague, had been to Pyongyang three years ago but had frozen relations with the DPRK as a result of the nuclear rump-up. The Australian government has competent negotiators in Ambassador Murray McLean (now in Japan), First Assistant Secretary Peter Baxter and Deputy Secretary Peter Gray. Each of these gentlemen has proven muster in thinking out of the box and negotiating in difficult circumstances.

As to F.W. de Klerk, the world knows he showed great courage in bringing down apartheid. Last week he was tastelessly attacked by some former officials in his government. They were joined by some African Nationalist Congress thugs and former communists. It is interesting that in South Africa former Communists and terrorists can say what they want because they are not Afrikaners.

De Klerk has been spending his retirement — nearly 10 years — bringing together former presidents and prime ministers to negotiate difficult questions behind the scenes with his Global Leadership Foundation. His focus has been Africa. Prior to this, he established the de Klerk Foundation, which monitors the rights of minorities. It is run by the very competent David Steward. De Klerk has gotten virtually no press and no recognition for his efforts.

On his 89th birthday Nelson Mandela announced the creation of the Elders. I do respect Mandela, but this idea seems more than just a thinly veiled copy of de Klerk’s Global Leadership Foundation. Of course, the world press gave Mandela’s proposal enormous coverage.

A colleague of mine in Prague called me after hearing a report on the BBC. “Doesn’t that sound exactly like what F.W. is doing? Why isn’t he being mentioned? Being given credit?”

Anyone with half a brain knows that answer — and I find it offensive.

Our planet is confronted with problems of enormous gravity. There are always a few brave men and women who lead by example.

President Bush is not one of them.

(UPI Columnist Marc S. Ellenbogen is chairman of the Global Panel Foundation and president of the Prague Society. A venture capitalist with seats in Berlin and Prague, he sits on the National Advisory Board of the U.S. Democratic Party where he is a vice chairman of the Democratic Expat Leadership Council.)