Evaluating GWB II

April 27, 2004

A few months ago I started a series called Evaluating GWB where I intended to review GWB and the War on Terror.

Since then there has been a spate of insider books on the Bush White House and a dramatic change in the nature of the Iraqi occupation.

I have not been reading those books and I have not been keeping up on the details of what is happening in Iraq, and so I have not been pontificating about GWB.

Instead of the detailed series I proposed, let me just pick a few points to make, good and bad.

Crusade - GWB's first response to 9/11 was to proclaim a crusade against terrorists - a good idea and a magnificently tone-deaf presentation of the idea. The language was quickly altered by his staffers, and GWB remembered not to say crusade again. Net impact - the word itself encouraged the radical Islamic groups who are trying to unify Islam by provoking the West, the retraction worked to the extent that people in the Islamic world decide that Bush is inarticulate rather than offensive.

With us or Against Us - the thing that first inspired me to write about GWB. By setting up a binary choice between terror and liberty, at least I think he defined non-terror with a positive term, Bush did a good job of pressuring Middle East leaders who might have hoped to straddle the gap between the US and radical Islam. The binary distribution seems to have been helpful in diplomacy with Libya and, to a lesser extent, with Syria and Egypt. Net result for the Middle East proper, positive.

However, With us or against us has effectively made the United States policy towards resistance movements a policy that hinges on the means used by the resistance movement and not the merits of the resistance or the abuses of the regime. Where Kissinger pushed a policy of realpolitik, aiding people who aided us, and where Carter pushed a policy of human rights, aiding nations that dealt with their subjects properly, Bush has turned to a morally neutral and outcome-blind policy that, in the case of things like Putin and the Chechin rebellion, may well have given a free hand to repression. One car bomb is now a get-out-of-sanctions-free card for the regime, and they can then do whatever they want because the insurgents are suddenly "terrorists." Net result for Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union, negative.

More later

Posted by Red Ted at April 27, 2004 03:29 AM | TrackBack