More than 850 experts in international security had signed (October 2004) a letter assessing the Bush administration's foreign policy as a "misguided" one with "overwhelmingly negative" results for American national security.
The letter was released by "Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy," a nonpartisan group which began its efforts by reaching out to conservative as well as liberal experts on foreign affairs. Signers includeed recent advisors to the Bush Administration as well as most of the nation's leading scholars of world politics.
Since the experts' open letter had criticized U.S. foreign policy which was released two weeks before, international media had provided substantial coverage. Major newspapers in Germany, Turkey and Australia ran stories, as did the Guardian in England, and the Straits Times in Singapore.. Broadcast coverage included a radio interview with the BBC and television coverage on al-Jazeera.
The significance of the experts' letter was obvious overseas: In the context of polls showing most American voters had favored President Bush for his national security policies, over 850 foreign affairs specialists in the United States and allied countries had joined together to "call urgently for a change of course," warning that the Administration's policies have featured "a great blunder" in Afghanistan and an Iraq policy that has helped al-Qaida.
The signers of the letter were a diverse and distinguished group. Former public officials in the group include Larry Diamond, who advised L. Paul Bremmer on Iraq; Barnett Rubin, who helped organize the interim government in Afghanistan; and Ambassador Ambler Moss, who negotiated the Panama Canal treaties, as well as an array of other former staffers from the State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council. Scholarly distinction is lent by 20 past presidents of the American Political Science Association and the International Studies Association and a host of other prominent academics. Far from reflecting a liberal bias, the group of signers included an array of prominent conservative scholars such as Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard University, John J Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, Michael C. Desch of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, and Christopher Layne, Contributing Editor of The American Conservative magazine. According to Dr. Thomas Volgy, Executive Director of the International Studies Association, this joint effort and broad agreement by such a diverse group of international affairs scholars was unprecedented.
The substance of the letter challenged Bush Administration policy on conservative, not liberal turf. Rather than criticizing the Administration for its neglect of international treaties or international institutions, it argued that the war in Afghanistan required more U.S. troops, and that the focus on Iraq has harmed the war on terrorism and led to inadequate attention to more pressing security challenges posed by other countries, especially Iran and North Korea.
The scholars were calling for an "open debate" on U.S. national security "informed by attention to the facts on the ground in Iraq, the facts of al-Qaida's methods and strategies, and sober attention to American interests and values." Though headline news in many parts of the globe and a significant part of the blogosphere, the letter has remained largely unreported in the mainstream US media. What is nevertheless clear is that some of the very same people from whom the President sought advice in the past were being ignored.
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