Bush's Foreign Policy Successes

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No. 5 Colombia

President Bush's administration significantly helped Colombia make giant strides in ending its decades-long war.  Colombia, a democracy, has been waging a war against the drug trade with the drug cartels and terrorism with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).  By 1996 the US had decertified Colombia as cooperating on narcotics and withdrew assistance for two years, a period during which drug traffickers forged alliances with the FARC and the paramilitary United Self Defense Forces (AUC).  When Andrés Pastrana took office, his top priority was to resume US assistance and he suggested a Plan Colombia, in the lines of a Marshall Plan.  The Clinton administration agreed to a plan that would provide nearly $3 billion in security assistance and development aid over six years starting in 2000.  While the plan aimed to strengthen the Colombian economy, local government, and establish the rule of law, it also gave way to a peace process that ceded the FARC a 16,000-acre safe haven south of Bogotá, which allowed the FARC to expand its drug production capabilities, increase its number of combatants and carry out more violence.  At the same time, the AUC also became more powerful.  (For further background please read Helping Colombia Sustain Progress Toward Peace, by Stephen Johnson) When President Bush took office his Andean Regional and Andean Counternarcotics initiatives (ACI and ARI) granted more assistance to Colombia.  By 2002 Andrés Pastrana had ordered the FARC out of their sanctuary zone when the FARC refused a cease-fire.  That May, Álvaro Uribe, whose father had been killed by the FARC, was elected president of Colombia by running on a hard-line platform.  During his first six months in office Uribe doubled aerial crop eradication efforts, raised a $780 million war tax, increased the size of the army, and started a network of 1 million civilian informants. The Bush administration's ACI and ARI approach has focused in addressing the root causes of the drug trade, not just on curtailing the drug trade per se. The Colombian people have supported Colombia's austere government budget, its efforts to reduce public debt levels, and the economy's export-oriented growth strategy, along with the government's democratic security strategy (i.e., extending legitimate authority over national territory, all measures which complement the US's $600 million/year Plan Colombia aid.  With the US's assistance and training, the Colombian military has become more effective and more reliable.  After the Colombian military's March 1, 2008 successful raid of a FARC encampment across the Ecuadorian border, the military (which years ago could hardly be trusted, as Simon Romero of the NYT reported) has dealt heavy blows against the FARC.  The information yielded by the FARC laptops revealed not only Venezuela's Hugo Chávez support of the FARC, but also that of the Swiss and 30 other countries. For further reading on the FARC's international connections, see The world of the FARC (Part I: Europe) and The world of the FARC (Part II: America). In July 2, the military successfully rescued French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, Americans Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, and 11 Colombian officers and NCOs, in a mission that was planned and carried out by Colombians, with ultra-modern American spy technology . Following that rescue, the military has kept the FARC on the run, severing the FARC leadership and seizing their weapons while curtailing the FARC's drug production.  The July rescue also showed Hugo Chávez dream of a cross-border Bolivian revolution to be a failure.  Colombia still has far to go, but thanks to the joint efforts of the Colombian people and the support of the Bush administration, it has turned itself around from being a failed, or near-failed, state to being the US's staunchest ally in South America.

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