Saturday, January 03, 2009

President Bush and His Legacy for America and the World

President George W. Bush will complete his two term presidency on January 20. Some people applaud an Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at President Bush. It is utterly stupid to “bow down and praise such one.” George W. Bush has tackled to resolve critical issues which his predecessor Bill Clinton left unsettled, including Iraq and Al Qaeda. Also, Clinton shares some responsibilities with Bush, regarding recent global economic crisis. Without understanding Bush presidency, we fail to evaluate the incoming president Barack Hussein Obama. Those who do not simply want to hail the messiah to laud Obama “our savior, our savior”, let’s explore America in the Bush era.

David Frum, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, points out eight achievements Bush has made (“Eight Facts That Burnish Bush’s Record”; On the Issue; December 2008).

1) New Strategic partnership with India:
It presents geopolitical advantage for the United States in the War on Terror and rivalry against illiberal capitalisms such as Russia and China.

2) US-Iraqi status of forces agreement:
Iraqi parliament approved this, and a longtime enemy to the West since the 1960s has become a key US ally in the Middle East.

3) Start to promote democracy in the Middle East:
Libya stopped antagonism against the West. Saudi Arabia and Gulf states toughened regulation against terrorists’ money laundering.

4) Prevention of further terrorist attacks:
There has been no Islamic terrorist attack since 9/11 in 2001 in the United States. Also, radical Muslim attack stopped in Europe since 2005.

5) Latin America stability:
The United States helped Colombia defeat domestic insurgency, and Mexico conduct the second multiparty presidential election.

6) National prescription of drug program:
This enables the elderly to receive medications they need.

7) Nuclear power industry:
Bush endorsed to build new nuclear reactors since 1970, which cut oil consumption about 10% since 2005.

8) Muslim rights:
Only 6% of Muslims in the United States experienced verbal abuse in two months after 9/11. Furthermore, Bush appointed Muslim American, Zalamy Khalizad to the ambassador to the United Nations.

Most of them are related to Islamic terrorism and the Middle East democracy. No. 7 is the issue anyone cannot dismiss. Liberals and anti-Americanists across the globe blame the Iraq War, because they think the Bush administration invaded Iraq for oil industry. Their claim does not make sense, as oil consumption declined because of nuclear boost.

In December, President Bush visited AEI for informal conversation about his presidential job. This was moderated by AEI President-then Christopher De Muth, and published by AEI(“A Conversation with President Bush”; AEI Online; December 18, 2008).

The President talked primarily on domestic issues such as tax cuts and health care. Although the economic crisis at the end of his presidential term has pushed approval rate for the Republican precipitously downward, President Bush talked proudly of 52 month uninterrupted job growth as a result of his tax cut. Regarding his health care policy, George W. Bush trumpets his market-oriented approach, which empowers individuals to make decisions for themselves. Bush expressed his strong belief that the market represents a free society.

In foreign policy, President Bush talked about the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush articulated that the war is a struggle of ideology between liberty and hatred. This is a vital point to understand why we must defeat Islamic terrorism.

Also, Bush talked a lot on Russia. Despite differences on Georgia, the President insists that the United States and Russia share common agendas, particularly in nuclear non-proliferation. Bush stressed that United States will continue to cooperate with Russia to ensure that rogue regimes and terrorists shall never acquire raw materials to make nuclear bombs.

After leaving the White House, George W. Bush will launch an initative to promote freedom and assist community development across the globe. Bush raises a concern that America is becoming isolationist. I agree to this view. During the last presidential election, the media and voters focused too much on domestic issues while the American world order is at crossroads now. It is such isolationism that helped Barack Hussein Obama over John Sidney McCain.

This article is a must read to understand the Bush presidency, because it is entirely written in his words without ill-intentioned media bias. You don’t have to bow down and praise George W. Bush. Just read it, and think by yourself.

Contrary to widely believed, Robert Kagan, senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, regards Bush as a realist (“The September 12 Paradigm”; Foreign Affairs; September/October, 2008). Kagan points out that the Bush administration disdained rule based approach of Clintonite diplomacy, because international agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, the Comprehensive Teat Ban Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, did not work well. Kagan says that the Bush team pursued America’s own national interests, rather than the role of hegemony.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush had changed into an interventionist. Robert Kagan comments homeland security expanded into more expansive and aggressive strategy when the Iraq War began. Unfortunately, European allies did not share America’s concern with Islamic radicals and sense of urgency to topple Saddam Hussein.

Despite the rift on Iraq, America’s relations with key allies in Europe, the Pacific, and the Middle East remain strong, as Kagan says.

The media that boosted Barack Obama are liable to report as if current president undermined America’s position in the world. This is too simplistic. Many policies during the Bush era were to resolve ineffectual outcomes under the Clinton administration. Some of them, like free trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea, are continuation of Clinton policies. I never advocate “bow down and praise” to President George W. Bush. However, a fair evaluation of Bush is absolutely essential to watch Incoming President Barack Obama. Don’t hail him the Messiah.