Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hating Bush and Loving Obama

Someone said to me that the world hated Bush and he didn’t care. Actually that isn’t true. The “world” didn’t hate Bush, only parts of it. India for example loved Bush. He brought our two nations closer together. He enabled them to join the “nuclear club.” And China has a history with the Bush’s. His father was an “old China hand.” While the Chinese couldn’t be said to “love” any American leader, they have been comfortable with Bush. He has played by the rules. He has warned Taiwan that if they declare independence, they can’t expect support from the U.S. China has prospered materially during the Bush administration.

And Japan, land of the Samurai, loved Bush’s pugnacious spirit. Elsewhere, Poland and many of the Eastern European nations liked Bush. Some of the former SSRs liked Bush.

So if we were able to add up that part of the world’s population that didn’t hate Bush, it would probably be larger than the part that did. What is really meant by “the world hates Bush” is that majorities in the West and Middle East hate him. Now as to the Middle East, Bush did go over there in a hard way. He believed Islamism declared war against the U.S. (something I also believe) and he responded violently. And if the Islamists and members of Islamic dictatorships don’t like him as a result of that – if he gets a bad press over there – it is probably true that he doesn’t care.

Which leaves the hatred of “the West.” If this person had said “the West” hates Bush and Bush doesn’t care, I wouldn’t have argued. I disagree with many of the European foreign affairs positions and understand Bush’s disdain of them; nevertheless Samuel P. Huntington was right (in The Clash of Civilizations) to describe the U.S. as the “Core State” of the West; so for Bush to be hated by the rest of the West is not a good thing – if it goes on too long. We have become a temporarily dysfunctional “civilization” (using the term “civilization” in the Huntington sense).

I believe the European opposition to Bush was wrong and irrational, but I’ve discovered that just because my wife may be wrong and irrational doesn’t mean I can scoff at her arguments or “not care” about them – although I have and suffered the consequences.

Let us assume for the sake of discussion that it is better to get along with a wife (or Europe) who has her back up and is insisting on her argument even though we know it is wrong. What is the best thing to do? It depends on what is at stake. Bush believed our security and the security of some of our allies was at stake, and given what we know about the intelligence he was given at the time, he had good reason to be worried. If our wife is wrong and her wrongness might put her in danger, the responsible thing to do is the right thing – whatever is necessary to protect her. We are protecting her even if she doesn’t appreciate it – even if she thinks she doesn’t need protection – even if she makes us suffer for it. Besides, she’ll get over it, and if Bush were to serve several more terms, Europe would eventually get over it. We have too much in common to be “on the outs” forever. We are not headed for divorce, we are only having a family squabble.

Let us (also for the sake of discussion) consider the implications of leaving Saddam alone and in power. He would still be thumbing his nose at the US, and ignoring their demands. He would still be playing with the people the UN sent in to Iraq to verify that he had no WMDs. He would still be “pretending” for the sake of his image in the region that he did have them. He would still be shooting at British and American airplanes overflying Iraq to make sure he didn’t wax genocidal against the Kurds or the Shiites, he would still be starving large numbers of Iraqis, and he would still be corrupting members of the UN, France, Russia and others with the opportunities presented him in the Oil for Food program. But let’s assume we left him alone. We can’t solve all the world’s problems; so let’s leave him in the region and take the lumps we expect from Al Qaeda. We are a big nation. Osama can’t kill us all.

In retrospect, we know that Osama hasn’t killed any of us (except for soldiers in Iraq) since 9/11, but we can’t assume that would have been true if Bush hadn’t intruded the U.S. into the Middle East looking for Al Quaeda in a big way. That intrusion certainly inhibited Al Quaeda to some extent. Al Quaeda infused the “insurgency” in Iraq with additional forces, forces he could have employed in other attacks against the U.S.. As it was, he did attack more convenient areas in the West, but without Bush’s actions, he might have been able to mount another 9/11. Would that have been so bad? Well, it might have eventually convinced the rest of the West that we needed to do more than we were doing about the problem . . . maybe. Europe has serious Islamic immigration problems and is in denial about them. Europe may have gone on denying that Al Quaeda was a serious problem. Let’s let the police handle them. They are a nuisance not a serious problem. We certainly don’t need to go to war with anyone over them.

Leaving, now, those hypothetical considerations, what has happened has interesting advantages. Bush brushed aside the objections of the peevish Europeans and did what he considered necessary. And they hated him for it. This hatred was emotional rather than tangible. There were no attempts on his life mounted by disgruntled Europeans. Bush went ahead with his war against the Islamists. Al Quaeda is on the run and may be close to being extinguished --- something a president more concerned about being loved by Europeans could never have accomplished, and now he’s leaving office. He will be replaced by someone who loves Europe and is loved by Europe. Bush will be back in Crawford Texas while Obama and Europe engage in a love fest.

And no one may notice that Obama continues on with what Bush initiated. He will not leave Iraq before it is capable of defending itself; which might not be too far off. He will concentrate on establishing Afghanistan more securely and in the process deal with the Taliban and Al Quaeda forces across the border in Pakistan – and probably get European help in doing so.

So, assuming Bush did what was right in regard to the war against Islamism, and did it at the expense of the rest of the West’s favor, that time has passed. The eight years of war against Islamism has been effective. They are still out there, but they aren’t as ascendant as they were back in the early part of Bush’s first term. Obama now can assure the Europeans that nasty old Bush is back in Crawford where he can’t hurt anyone anymore, so let’s tidy up those criminal elements in the Middle East and have a party. It’s almost enough to make me believe in a conspiracy theory.

No comments: