The news people, both print and electronic, have a difficult task these days. There’s not much in the way of striking or significant developments on the foreign affairs front. Has everyone noticed the change in reporting content lately? The headlines in recent weeks have focused on peripheral questions lacking in immediacy; the CNN-type news networks seemingly struggle to fill their air time. There simply doesn’t seem to be much in the way of policy related issues in the forefront of the world’s attention.
The war in Iraq is over and has settled into a pattern of sporadic violence associated with the early days of what may develop into a lengthy U. S. and British occupation of that country. Saddam Hussein, dead or alive, appears to be out of the picture.
The Arab-Israeli dispute (perhaps more appropriately termed “the Palestinian-Israeli dispute” even though there is not yet a Palestinian state) has degenerated into its unfortunately usual cycle of random terrorism and state-sponsored force and destruction. This has occurred after a brief flurry of optimism that the American “road map” might begin resolving that very long-standing conflict. Recent indications that Palestinian groups such as Hamas will require seeing before believing (as indicated in high Washington circles).
Al Qaeda, although not finally defeated in anyone’s estimation, demonstrates far less effectiveness than previously. This is largely due to the American-led coalition’s occupation of the Afghanistan safe haven, plus heightened security measures around much of the globe. Osama bin Ladin, dead or alive, seemingly is no more dangerous these days than Saddam.
Elsewhere in the international news, disease outbreaks hold center stage in Asia, deadly civil strife rages in parts of Africa, European unity progresses at a measured pace, a presidential election takes place peaceably in South America. Although the staggering death toll in Africa beggars understanding, clearly neither that calamity nor any other of these fairly “usual” developments threatens world peace. None has the potential impact of a major terrorist menace and the requisite response thereto. On even humanitarian terms, the strife in Africa does not capture the attention of policy makers in the rest of the world.
No news is good news, as the saying goes. Those of us interested in the international scene who are fortunate enough to be able to benefit from this comparatively quiet time should by all means do so. It doesn’t take a seer to predict that major international complications lie just down the road: See elsewhere in this presentation of American Diplomacy for extensive commentary on Washington’s policy framework under the current Bush administration. That program di r ection is not by any means simple or simpleminded, but such phrases as “preemptive war” and “policeman of the world” and “politicized intelligence” and “worldwide hegemony” spring to mind in that connection. All den ote looming complications for the United States in its conduct of foreign affairs. American diplomacy, we predict, is in for a severe test of its capabilities.
So, let us enjoy the good news—the absence of news—while it lasts.