President Bush used his annual address to warn of U.S. dependence on imported oil and reaffirm support for democratization efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere. The president called for resolve in supporting U.S. troops in Iraq. But some analysts saw the speech as a reminder of how Iraq has drained the administration's energy and creativity (WashPost). CFR fellow James Lindsay tells cfr.org's Bernard Gwertzman the speech highlighted Bush's "political weakness."
The president repeated the ambitious pledge of his second inaugural address to lead global efforts to advance democracy in the world. Continuing a tougher posture toward allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia, he said they must commit to democratic reforms. And he called on Hamas, the winner in last week's Palestinian elections, to renounce terror, disarm, and recognize Israel. The challenges posed by the calls for democracy in the Arab world are underlined in this CFR Task Force Report.
Bush directed his strongest criticism at Tehran, calling the regime the world's primary state sponsor of terror and accusing it of pursuing nuclear weapons, which Iran denies. The president vowed to work for a united international front to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions, although this commentary in the Asia Times says isolating Iran will not work.
In what was seen as a surprise, President Bush, a former Texas oilman, proclaimed that "America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world." In order to remedy this condition, the president proposed his Advanced Energy Initiative, aimed at ending U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil by increasing funding for clean-energy research. This included a call for further research into ethanol as a means to power vehicles, a process outlined by the Department of Energy. The call for new energy alternatives received mixed reactions (MSNBC), and the New York Times says Bush's desire to reduce consumption of foreign oil is nothing new. Reuters reports that while the new plan may help stem U.S. emissions, it's far from an endorsement of the Kyoto Protocol aimed at curbing fossil-fuel emissions. It's an increasingly important issue, since 2005 was nearly the hottest year on record. A CFR Policy Initiative makes several recommendations to slow the warming trend.