Sunday, November 30, 2008


Robert Fulford: A great eight years for America haters
Posted: November 29, 2008, 9:30 AM by Kelly McParland

Bush’s billions saved lived in Africa — but how many people know this?

For those Canadians who hate Americans, and believe in their hearts that they are intrinsically superior to the citizens of the United States, George W. Bush’s two terms have been a radiant period, an era when familiar impulses of nationalist bigotry were reinforced by unbridled, exuberant rage. At the same time, liberal Americans who see the Republicans as the party of the devil have enjoyed eight years of intense self-righteousness. It’s unlikely that either group will ever know such satisfactions again. This is not to minimize the tragedies of the Bush years, from Iraq to New Orleans to Wall Street, or to suggest that Bush-haters failed to experience those grave events with a proper seriousness. The point is that in hard times (and our times turned bitterly hard on 9/11), there’s much relief to be found in placing the blame.

It seems clear that Bush’s legacy is now carved in stone. He’s the perfect recipient of blame for everything that happened during his administration. He’s made a few remarks suggesting that he dreams of a reversal in opinion resembling the moral upgrade that time eventually conveyed on Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, both of them much-derided in office. That hope has grown increasingly wan.

Bush has never been the complete failure his enemies have always pictured, but his greatest success is hard to appreciate. After 9/11 demonstrated the incompetence of America’s intelligence system, history assigned Bush the task of preventing anything similar happening again. For a national leader, nothing out-ranks the safety of the citizens. Few would have bet on success in this project, 9/11 having seemed so easy for the suicide killers, yet this continent has, amazingly, enjoyed seven terrorism-free years

Somehow, the plans of terrorists have been frustrated. That may be Bush’s greatest success. The fears everyone experienced in 2001 have so diminished that Americans and others now regard as bothersome the security systems that may have saved their lives.

Bush’s style of diplomacy, which has too often involved an insouciant disregard for the attitudes of allies, has made whatever he’s accomplished in world affairs nearly invisible. Five years ago, only about 50,000 people in all of Sub-Saharan Africa were receiving anti-retroviral treatment for AIDS. In 2003, Bush launched the $30-billion President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Now, 1.7 million people in the region receive the treatment. This year, Bush signed a commitment to spend $48-billion that, among other things, extends the number being treated to 3-million and provides training for 140,000 health-care workers specializing in HIV prevention and treatment. That’s the largest contribution that any state has ever made to fight a single disease. By organizing that bipartisan program, Bush fundamentally changed future American involvement in Africa. But it’s unlikely that one in a 100 of his fellow Americans knows about it.

Like everything else that was positive in his era, it was buried beneath his mistakes. He proved to be a sadly inadequate manager of government. That’s especially surprising when we recall that he’s the first president who ever came to office with an MBA on his record -- and a Harvard MBA at that. His many bad appointments, made out of political motives, friendship or perhaps pure laziness, came to the surface in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina roared over New Orleans and inept federal officials made a tragedy much worse than it had to be.

Whatever his mistakes, Bush saw in the fall of 2001 that the struggle against terror was the great challenge to 21st-century democracy and therefore the great challenge of his life. He was a war president, as he said, but the Iraq war proved his failure as a leader. Perhaps because of a narrow, incurious nature, he didn’t understand that a democracy cannot successfully fight a war without the enthusiastic assent of the citizens.

Somehow, he orchestrated a war in which no one sacrificed except the military participants and their families. While soldiers died in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush Republicans conducted business as usual, their corporate supporters gratefully receiving tax cuts while awarding each other lavish bonuses. Understandably, the citizens were revolted. The greatest of the failures that undermined his presidency was Bush’s lack of a moral imagination.
National Post

David Frum: Eight facts that burnish Bush's record
Posted: November 29, 2008, 9:00 AM by Kelly McParland
David Frum, Full Comment, U.S. Politics

With the U.S. economy in crisis, George W. Bush’s already slumping popularity levels have sagged even deeper. This summer, his own political party kept him away from its national convention in St. Paul. The President himself has been reduced to wistful hopes that history will somehow justify him.

At this low point, some counterbalance:

1) Even as you read this, Indian commandos are waging a deadly urban battle against Islamic terrorists. Those soldiers have almost certainly trained with U.S. Rangers or Marines — part of an intensifying U.S.-India security partnership that has been one of the most signal foreign policy successes of the Bush years. Otto von Bismark is supposed to have said that the most important geopolitical fact of the 20th century would be that the United States and Great Britain spoke the same language. Bush’s strategic entente with India may well prove the most important geopolitical fact of the 21st.

2) Last week, the Iraqi parliament approved a status-of-forces agreement authorizing the continuing presence of U.S. troops inside Iraq. The Iraq war is ending in political reconciliation within Iraq -- and with hope of an ongoing alliance between Iraq and the United States. Since the 1960s, Iraq has been the most destabilizing state in the Arab world, ruled by a succession of radical anti-western regimes. Bush leaves office with Iraq ready at last to become a more normal country, at peace with itself and its neighbours.

3) Bush’s hopes for a more democratic Middle East have not been realized. But here’s what has been accomplished throughout the region: Libya has ended its nuclear program, paid damages for the Lockerbie bombing and reoriented its regime to the West. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have toughened their banking rules, ending their old double game on terrorist financing. Hamas fundraising operations in North America have been rolled up: Just this past week, a Texas court convicted the officials of the Holy Land Foundation, Hamas’ main U.S. front group, of providing material support to terrorism. The second Palestinian intifada has been crushed, confronting the Palestinian leadership with the hard truth that their aspirations cannot be attained by violence.

4) No new international terrorist attack inside the United States since 9/11. No Islamic terrorist attacks on a European ally since 2005.

5) Plan Colombia worked, and the Colombian insurgency has been weakened if not broken. Mexico has completed its second multiparty presidential election. The United States has resisted Hugo Chavez’s attempts to make himself a Castro-style martyr, putting the Chavez regime on the way to collapse due to its own economic incompetence.

6) Economic conservatives like me may not like it much, but for many millions of senior citizens, George Bush’s most important legacy is a national prescription-drug program that relieves those over 65 of the fear that they cannot afford the medications they need.

7) Bush encouraged the nuclear-power industry. There have been 17 new nuclear licence applications since 2007 — opening the way to the first new reactors since the 1970s. U.S. oil consumption has dropped almost 10% since 2005. In September, 2008, the most recent month for which figures are available, the United States consumed a little under 534 million barrels of oil — the lowest amount used in any month since September, 1996.

8) After 9/11, Bush passionately championed America’s vast majority of law-abiding Muslims — and perhaps due to his leadership, the much-feared wave of hate crimes never occurred. According to surveys by Zogby International, only 6% of U.S. Muslims experienced any form of verbal abuse in the two months immediately following 9/11. In all the United States, there were 84 incidents of anti-Islamic violence or intimidation in 2007. (To put that in context, there were 1,039 incidents that year of anti-gay violence or intimidation.) George Bush was the first president to confer cabinet rank on a Muslim American, when he chose Zalmay Khalilzad as ambassador to the United Nations in 2007.

Does this legacy qualify George Bush for Mount Rushmore? Probably not. But it does promise the 43rd president a gentler treatment from history than he has received from his contemporaries.
©David Frum

National Post

Photo: President George W. Bush reviewing an honour guard during an official visit to India in March 2006. Bush visited India to salvage a nuclear trade deal as the basis of a new strategic partnership. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Conrad Black: A 'rather successful' president with some serious achievements under his belt
Posted: November 29, 2008, 9:00 AM by Kelly McParland
Conrad Black, Full Comment, U.S. Politics

A cataract of sniggering and brickbats may safely be expected as serious analysis of the presidency of George W. Bush begins, but it will not last: The historical standing of departing presidents tends to rise as emotionalism subsides.

The U.S. annual economic growth rate has been 2.2% through this presidency, the highest of any advanced country, and the economy expanded 19% in this time, well ahead of other large economies. The same pattern was replicated in per-capita income and spending, investment of all kinds and unemployment, which ran at half a percent below the average of the Clinton years and three full points below the Eurozone.

Until the last three months of his eight-year presidency, Bush avoided a recession. It is clear now that the Federal Reserve and the Treasury will prevent deflation and maintain the money supply by topping up the monetary base as credit contracts. They are already kick-restarting commercial and personal lending. They will, if necessary, propel the banking system by the scruff of the neck and the small of the back toward its real function, sensible lending, and not being hosed out of their shareholders’ underwear by imaginative, self-destructing derivative instruments, invented by the now defunct and largely unlamented U.S. investment-banking industry. George W. Bush will not be tagged with a lingering economic depression as Martin Van Buren and Herbert Hoover were.

Bush’s treaty with India, creating an alliance with that country, is one of the most important diplomatic initiatives in the world since Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. But the chief preoccupation of the Bush administration has been the conflict with terrorists and terrorism-promoting states. All who remember 9/11 will recall the very high concern that, as bin Laden promised in his belligerent videos at the time, there would be imminent and frequent sequels. Yet not so much as a firecracker has gone off in the Americas since then, and President Bush deserves much credit that he has not received for this fact. Despite the current outrage in India, international terrorist action has not been a fraction of what had been feared. Terrorist organizations have been severely damaged, by the United States or with American assistance, in many infected countries.

Ironically, the issue that will mainly determine the historical ranking of the Bush presidency, the fate of Iraq, lies largely in the hands of Barack Obama. If Iraq endures as a powerful and effective anti-terrorist ally, a pro-Western regime with some power-sharing, and an alternative government model to the corrupt theocracies and secular despotisms that infest the Arab world now, the geo-strategic impact will be as immensely positive to the West as the Iranian revolution was a severe setback.

As long as the West imports large quantities of oil, it is extremely dangerous to have both major Persian Gulf countries, Iran and Iraq, in hands hostile to the West. Saddam Hussein and the Iranian Khomeinists between them, had the Saudis, Emirates and the other Gulf states quaking in their metaphorical sandals.

Those who opposed Bush’s insertion of 30,000 more soldiers into Iraq in the Surge of January 2007, and have consistently denied that it would succeed, including Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, are still officially in denial. Some have claimed that Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is effectively an Iranian puppet. This, they allege, is why he overtly supported Obama in the U.S. election, because he wants the United States out in 16 months to facilitate the oppression of the Sunnis and the Kurds, by the Shiites, under the sponsorship of Shiite Iran. The litmus test is the integration into the Iraqi security forces of the Sunni “Awakening,” the militias and para-militaries that under U.S. blandishments, deserted al-Qaeda.

Whatever the president-elect thinks of the Iraqi initiative of his predecessor, he must be too intelligent to throw away the fruits of a military campaign that has made such dramatic progress. This is not a blood-letting impasse with draftee forces like Korea and Vietnam. In any scenario except the complete domination of all Iraq by Iran, the United States will be a long way ahead of where it was in the Middle East on September 12, 2001.

More than this, President Bush has restored the credibility of American conventional deterrence. Bin Laden and other radicals mocked the aversion of the United States to casualties, and said the U.S. would cut and run in Iraq, as it was deemed to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia. Instead, al-Qaeda has been expelled from Iraq and has been driven into caves in Pakistan. No one can contest the staying power and effectiveness of the U.S. military; its professional performance has been extremely high.

Unilateralism has not been an unalloyed success, but the point had to be made that the United States will not wait on anyone else before using force in what it considers to be its national security interest. Particularly, it will not accept that its forces can be deployed only with the prior permission of those historic exemplary upholders of international law, Germany, Russia, China and France.

I believe that something important and useful will come from the Iraqi operation, and that George W. Bush will ultimately be seen as a rather successful president. For the benefit of skeptics, I might add that this thesis — expanded into its current form at the request of my editor — has been my publicly stated view since well before there was any thought of asking this president to redress, in my own case, the failings of the American justice system.
National Post

National Post

Ted Belman

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