One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

“Bush Was No Unilateralist”…except for that whole Iraq war thing

It is astounding the extent to which partisan hacks Wall Street Journal columnists will bend over backwards to inflate their man’s President Bush’s legacy in these waning days.  The latest?  He was never a “unilateralist,” after all.  That whole “with us or against us” bluster?  Just talk.  “Go it alone?”  More like “go it with everyone!”

Well, at least on certain issues, and with a distinctly Bushian slant.  Kimberly Strassel talks with Paula Dobriansky, the State Department’s undersecretary for democracy and global affairs — responsible for important issues ranging from climate change to pandemic disease to “oceans” [that last one is particularly, um, expansive] — and concludes that, where it really counted the most, the Bush administration was the paragon of cooperation, but that dirty liberals just preferred to see otherwise.

One reason why [Ms. Dobriansky’s department’s] efforts haven’t been as noticed is that most aren’t the subject of “hard” foreign policy debates. When critics level their unilateralism charge against the Bush administration, they tend to focus on its tougher actions — the invasion of Iraq, or the refusal to directly engage with rogue leaders.

George W. Bush...the whole world's friend

George W. Bush...the whole world's friend

It’s not that the issues on which Ms. Dobriansky worked were not important; on the contrary, they are vitally important, and suffered all the more from a closed-minded, my-way-or-the-highway Bush approach.  On climate change, the refusal to submit Kyoto for ratification was not indicative, as Strassel outrageously suggests, of a “dramatically different view” that prioritized “medium and long term” efforts over the silly “short term” approach of signing a piece of paper…that committed countries to specific actions over the medium and long term.

Even Bush’s legitimately laudable AIDS work in Africa came with the crippling caveat that it be undertaken on his the religious right’s terms.  By supporting the global gag rule, by forcing abstinence down the throats of AIDS-inflicted societies, and by refusing to make condoms a central component of his policy, President Bush undermined his treatment efforts to the point that more people are getting infected with HIV/AIDS than his efforts are able to treat.

And with “oceans” — how can an administration that refused to sign the Law of the Sea Treaty, an accord that practically everyone in the world has agreed to; that enjoys widespread support on the left and the right, from oil companies and environmentalists, activists and politicians; and that would actually further U.S. interests, claim that it acted multilaterally?

The most serious critique of Strassel’s argument, though, deals with her mind-bogglingly bold air-brushing of this administration’s greatest accomplishments failure: the war in Iraq.  For a war that even conservatives acknowledge — and often praise — as the defining aspect of Bush’s years in the White House to be gruffly shunted to the side in favor of things like oceans management policy is plainly ludicrous.  And even if Bush’s presidency were a complete international love-fest multilateral (er, besides that little war in Iraq), that statement becomes practically meaningless as long as you exclude that little war in Iraq.

(image from flickr user Image Editor under a Creative Commons license)


December 13, 2008 - Posted by | Conservatives, U.S. Foreign policy | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Regarding the Law of the Sea Convention, the fault lies with the most conservative senators. While the Bush Administration supported US joining the convention, though its support faltered at the critical moment in the spring of 2008 when the convention was ready to go to the floor for a vote.

    Bush gave the Administration’s support and encouragement in late 2003, and Sen. Lugar got it through the foreign relations committee, only to be blocked by then majority Leader Frist’s unwillingness to let it go to the floor. In May, 2007 Bush gave his written support, the White House told the opponents that it supported the Convention, and leading political appointees (Negroponte and Bellinger at State, England at DOD and the chart of CEQ) spoke and testified on its behalf. But when all the republican candidates kowtowed to the John Birch Society and the Heritage Foundation in late 2007, the White House sat on its hands even while its appointees were arguing for senate approval. A few calls from President Bush would have moved the Convention to a successful floor vote, but when it was needed, the call never came.

    Comment by Caitlyn | December 13, 2008 | Reply

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