February 01, 2008

The Bush Foreign Policy Legacy

I think that's a pretty cool title for this essay. It makes me feel like Walter Lippmann or someone like that. Very summary in its breadth.

My hope is that we now know what Bush's foreign policy legacy will be, at least in rough outline. While the Decider talks about "sprinting to the finish" and that sort of thing, it's okay with me (far preferable, in fact) if he just sort of ambles along, taking the time to clear brush and ride his bike and use his elliptical trainer or whatever. I, personally, would have no problem if he collected his 400K now for 2008 and took early retirement. I didn't see the SOTU address the other night (I'd eaten some bad filet of sole and didn't want to risk it), but numerous commentators pointed out that Bush seemed perceptibly giddy with the realization that this was it, he could stop the serious act now and go back to being...whatever he was before.

We probably won't get that lucky, and Bush will "build" on his progress to date. Which consists of: the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Now, you can say whatever you like about our 43rd President (and most people have), but one thing you must admit, if you're at all honest, is that the mustachioed, Ernie Kovacs look-alike, who always wore uniforms that made him look like a generalissimo in Woody Allen's "Bananas," is permanently gone from the scene. Deposed, captured, hanged. Dead as a doornail.

That's it, of course. That's the sum and substance of Bush's record of foreign policy successes. Afghanistan? Um, I don't know. Are the Taliban really gone? I don't think so, principally because they were actually a Pakistani phenomenon, and Pakistan's insidious capacity for generating mischief is as vibrant as ever. Anyway, the Big Cheeses of the Afghan situation, Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, are still very much extant, more than six years after 9/11. You can't declare victory in Afghanistan with the Evil-Doers waiting in the wings for a Lib softie to take over in the USA.

But Saddam? He's done for. Kaput, finis, terminado. We took care of that problem. Which was...what again? That's right, he was a despot from the same part of the world that gave us the 9/11 hijackers. Bush used just those words to remind us of his wisdom in toppling Saddam. "Imagine if Saddam was still in power in the same part of the world where the 9/11 hijackers came from," something elegant like that. By the "same part of the world," he means, of course, just north of Saudi Arabia, where Osama and 15 of the hijackers were from, and sort of northwest of Egypt, where Atta and Zawahiri were from. I confess this is a little confusing.

Personally, I think most Iraqis, despite everything, were glad to see Saddam go. Especially if you were a Shiite during his reign of terror. The arbitrary brutality of despots makes everyone nervous. By somewhat similar thinking, I'll be glad to see Bush go because his pattern of routine law-breakinng (FISA, the Geneva Conventions, the 4th Amendment, designation of American citizens as enemy combatants) makes me nervous. Maybe we can get someone in office (Obama, Clinton, either way) who understands how the Bill of Rights works, and sort of gets the whole separation of powers thing. So that when a statute (like FISA or Common Article 3 of Geneva) is inconvenient, you amend the damn thing, you don't simply commit a felony and then ask Congress to exonerate you retroactively.

But we were talking about Saddam. He's gone. We can all agree on that. And he was an Arab, just like Osama and Atta. It's not surprising, of course, that Iraq would have had an Arab as its leader. But still...where was I?

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