This week the Wall Street Journal published an interview with former president George Bush done by Kim Strassel. The most striking part of Kimberley Strassel’s interview with George Bush was his description of the “freedom agenda.” The sound of an agenda for freedom is great, it has a nice ring to it, but unfortunately Bush decided to implement it around the world, rather than right here in the U.S.
Iraq and Afghanistan
Regarding Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq he says that the U.S. was plenty capable of doing both at once. I would disagree, of course, with the clarity of hindsight. I do agree with Bush that the invasion of Iraq didn’t embolden Iran. I believe Iran has always been looking for ways to cause trouble, and that the close chronology of the rise of Iran and the fall of Iraq is somewhat (but perhaps not entirely) coincidental. Iran may have used Iraq’s decreased influence in the region to speed up its plans for Mid-East dominance, but the plan was always there.
Bush laments the public’s perception of the war in Iraq after U.S. forces failed to find WMD in the country. WMD did exist in Iraq, but even though they weren’t found, the public’s perception of the war as a bad idea was not wrong, no matter what the reason for their abandonment of the president on the issue. Bush worried that this would put Americans off of future pre-emptive actions. I hope it does. Being the aggressor in any war bears with it the responsibility of proving your case for initiating the war in the first place. WMD or no, that never happened.
Bush told Strassel that his biggest worry was that there would be “No U.S. presence in Iraq.” I wonder how long in the former president’s opinion should American forces remain in Iraq? If his idea is to leave a permanent presence in Iraq like those in Germany, Japan, and South Korea, my question is, where will it stop? How many countries will have a U.S. military presence in them in the future? The Roman Empire fell apart in part by spreading its legions beyond the limits of its capacity to recall them in time of need.
Russia and the Dollar
Of Mr. Bush’s turnaround on Vladimir Putin, he says that high oil prices emboldened Putin, allowing him to take away Russian freedoms. This is probably true, though oil prices could have been kept down had the U.S. pursued a strong dollar policy with anything like an effort.
GM and TARP
Bush’s response to questions regarding GM are simply outrageous. He says of the GM bailout “We were pretty risk-averse at this point.” Who was the president guarding from the effects of risk? GM: certainly. The UAW: probably. The state of Michigan: possibly. The American people as a whole and future generations: Definitely not. This was risking the future for the present. Regarding TARP the president says that “We didn’t have a lot of time.” It would seem to me that he implemented the old Army motto of “Do something, even if it’s wrong.”
Bush says in the interview that his fiscal record is sound, even though he spent ““a lot of money” on war, homeland security, and Hurricane Katrina.” But what do we have to show for this money? Return, not intention, should be the measuring stick for spending.
Mr. Bush’s tax cuts were a great success, though the redistributive “tax credits” that he instituted in 2008 were essentially just welfare in disguise. I am skeptical of the use of “46 consecutive months of growth” when describing the economic times following the tax cuts, because such a large portion of that growth was enabled by people cashing out the home equity from their houses and using it buy, buy, buy. That is not sustainable economic growth, that’s fluff.
In the end Mr. Bush asks history to decide on his legacy. That will no doubt happen.