After losing both houses of Congress in the 1994 election, Bill Clinton expostulated: The president of the United States is not irrelevant!
On learning his trusted aide from Texas Scott McClellan has denounced as an “unnecessary war” the same Iraq war McClellan defended from the White House podium, George Bush must feel as Clinton did.
The synchronized savagery of the attacks on McClellan as turncoat suggests he drew blood. For what he has done is offer confirmation to the president’s war critics, from within the White House inner circle, that Bush’s motive in going to war was not a clear and present danger of attack by Iraq with weapons of mass destruction, but to advance a Bush crusade to impose democracy on the Middle East.
Neoconservative ideology, not U.S. national interests, McClellan is saying, motivated Bush to launch one of the longest and most divisive wars in U.S. history.
When loyalists defect and seek to profit from that defection, it is usually a sign of a failing presidency. And, indeed, events suggest that history is passing Bush by.
Despite the administration’s designation of Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations, and of Syria and Iran as state sponsors of terror with whom we do not negotiate, America’s clients are ignoring America.
Israel has ignored Bush’s demand that it stop building and expanding settlements on a West Bank that is to be the heartland of a Palestinian state. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been secretly negotiating with Syria for the return of the Golan Heights in exchange for peace.
When America refused to play honest broker between Jerusalem and Damascus, Turkey, at Israel’s request, stepped into the role.
The pro-American Lebanese government of Prime Minister Siniora has negotiated a truce and power-sharing arrangement with Hezbollah, giving that militant Shiite movement and party veto power in the Beirut government. Egypt is negotiating with Hamas for a truce in the Israeli-Gaza war and to effect the exchange of a captured Israeli solider held by Hamas for Hamas fighters held in Israel.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard, designated a terrorist organization by the Senate, helped to arrange the ceasefire between government forces and the Mahdi Army in Basra and Sadr City. While the United States has used the roughest of language to denounce Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president has been received as an honored guest by the Iraqi government we support and by the Ayatollah Sistani, who has yet to meet a high-ranking American.
When Bush went to the Middle East to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel as the Zionist he has become, he was criticized by a Palestinian leader who survives on U.S. aid. When he went to Riyadh to plead for an increase in the flow of oil, he got a token concession from the king.
In Pakistan, the new government has been negotiating a truce with the radicalized frontier provinces, which would leave the Taliban with a privileged sanctuary from which to prepare their annual offensives to overthrow the government in Kabul and expel the Americans, as their fathers expelled the Russians.
As Russia and China move closer together to oppose U.S. missile defenses and the U.S. presence, military and economic, in the Caucasus and Central Asia, Latin America seems to be going its own leftward way. The halcyon days of the Alliance for Progress are long gone.
The world seems to be waiting for Bush to depart and for the next American president. For the foreign policy differences between John McCain and Barack Obama are as real and stark as they have been since the Reagan-Carter election of 1980, or the Nixon-McGovern election of 1972.
Looking back on the years since 9/11, it is hard to give the Bush foreign policy passing grades. We pushed NATO eastward and alienated Russia. We have 140,000 Army and Marine Corps troops tied down in Iraq in a war now in its sixth year, from which our NATO allies have all extricated themselves. We have another war going in Afghanistan, where the situation is as grave as it has been since we went in.
The Bush democracy crusade was put on the shelf after producing election triumphs for Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. And the Bush Doctrine of preventive war, after Iraq, appears to be headed there, as well.
America remains the first economic and military power on earth. But after seven years of Bush, we no longer inspire the awe or hopes we once did. We are no longer the world hegemonic power of the neocons’ depiction. And the reason is that Bush embraced their utopian ideology of democratic empire and listened to their siren’s call to be the Churchill of his age.
Of Bush, it may be said he was a far better politician and candidate than his father, but as a statesman and world leader, he could not carry the old man’s loafers.