George Bush and the Reversal on Foreign Policy

Posted by Mike Merritt in Politics on

I think J.K. Rowling should use that as the name of book seven, in place of “Harry Potter and Whatever This Part Will Be.”

George Bush, the man who seemed like he was going to enjoy a fairly quiet presidency, rocked by the events of 9/11. George Bush, the man who urged that the world rout out the Axis of Evil and other terrorists. George Bush, who led us through wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And George Bush, the decider, deciding on a complete reversal of the course he set in 2001.

As some of you may know, the President, along with Tony Blair, is urging that a U.N. backed peacekeeping force be sent to southern Lebanon, right after a cease-fire is negotiated (1). He also recommended that foreign nations not interfere with this force. Add that to the fact the White House is now supporting Geneva Convention protections for Guantanamo detainees (2), and you can clearly see that something is going on in Washington.

Not that I’m against any of this at all. In fact, I would embrace both measures with open arms, as would I’m sure many people. However, why the complete switch in foreign policy? Back in 2003, the President was pushing for an international force to invade Iraq if they didn’t disarm. He certainly was not backing down from his position then.

Well, as anybody who can read a newspaper would know, the President is increasingly becoming unpopular, even within his own party. Any decision a President makes ultimately creates an image for his party, whether or not the rest of them would act the same way. It’s a waterfall affect; the ill starts at the top, and spreads it way to the bottom. It happened with Clinton, and that’s probably part of the reason Bush won in 2000. So, I think the President is doing this in part to gain back support for the Republicans. They obviously want to stay in control of Congress. I think that if they lose either chamber in November, it will create a ripple effect that could potentially lead to a Democratic victory in 2008.

This is not the first time I’ve noticed this change in attitude. It has been going on for some time, since the start of the current tensions between us and Iran. If you did not notice, the President never ruled out invading Iran, but he never made it clear that the option was on the table. What he did make clear, in his last State of the Union address, was the the Iranians should rise up and combat their own government. Well, that was my interpretation, at least. You can make up your own mind:

And tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our Nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran. — Excerpt, Presidental State of the Union Address, 1/31/06

So, is this reversal of policy a good thing? Undoubtedly, it is the best thing he has done in six years. Is the President doing this for right reason, though? That is an answer that is a little murkier, but I think it may at least be part of the reason. Though he says he does not pay attention to opinion polls, the facts make me wonder otherwise. If it’s not public opinion, then it’s his standing among members of Congress. Something has caused him to change his mind. I do wonder how long it will last. Will the President keep going this course if the Republicans retain control of Congress is November? That remains to be seen, but I think there is a good chance that this would be the case. Even if his party retains control, he would again probably fall out of favor if he shifted course again.

While writing the last paragraph, something I learned in my college course about the Soviet Union came to mind. President Mikhail Gorbachyov also found himself in a similar situation with the party toward the end of his term. In order to appease the masses, he found himself having to switch from being more conservative to more liberal and back several times, since he feared for his position, while not wanting the Soviet Union to fall apart. The U.S. is nowhere near falling apart, but the Republican’s hold on Congress is near the tipping point. Therefore, and on a final note, it will be quite interesting to see what happens after November. Stay tuned to this spot for an update.

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