For the last three posts we have been exploring the claim that George W. Bush is the worst President of the United States ever. Some say that he is the worst, some say he is in the middle of the pack but just about everyone agrees he is not the best ever. This post continues the job of grading W on the various issues that he faced in his two terms of office. See the previous posts to get the background for where we are now.
Iraq occupation – D – same as Afghanistan. A lot of good but the job is not done so W can’t get better grade until the job is done. He can’t get better than a C ever since he messed up so bad by putting Bremer in place – Bremer’s decisions really messed up the nation for several years. I think that history will eventually say that the US did better in Iraq than just about any other takeover of a foreign nation (Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Georgia, Poland, etc) although that is a terrible standard to compare us to.
Israel – B – he deserves better than a C because somehow he prevented Israel from pounding Lebanon and Syria to a pulp. He made them take a huge loss in their skirmish with Lebanon when they could have simply finished the problem. There was a lot of desire on the part of Israel to do that after the suicide bombings and missile attacks. Unfortunately, that may have been a mistake because it is only going to get worse when Iran gets the bomb and the lessons that Israel learned they are now taking out on Gaza (as I write this).
Palestine – D – what a blown opportunity. The fanatic, Arafat, dies, which was a great chance to make progress. Instead the militants get stronger but then they blow it which was another fantastic opportunity to fix the problem. W should have forced a multi-prong diplomacy at the time of the Lebanon skirmishes to make Israel make peace with Palestine but Iran was screwing it up at the same time. The Palestinians are probably slightly better than they were 8 years ago but that is another reason to give a D since they need to get a lot better in order to prevent it from getting a lot worse. Typically, status quo would be a C but the lack of progress and the ramifications of that lack of progress forces the D. This problem has been around my entire life and I think it will still be making headlines when they bury me.
Iran – not sure – I really don’t know how to grade this one. The problem is so fluid and so complex that I don’t know what should have been done. No question that we scared the bejeesus out of Iran when we took over Iraq in about a month or two. If I was them, I would have stepped up nuclear efforts also. The Europeans aren’t helping much either and they are more at threat than the US. The only thing we (meaning everyone) have done right is to restrain Israel from taking them out proactively. If this time bomb doesn’t go off in the next 8 years, I will be amazed (and I will probably give Obama credit for at least not screwing it up).
North Korea – C – Putting NK on the evil axis list was stupid. There was no “axis”. Are they an evil nation, yes. But they are not aligned with the others on the list except opportunistically. If Iran and Korea were neighbors, they would likely be at war (Iran would probably win). This is a status quo situation – it got a little better than under W but not a great deal and in some ways got worse (especially for the poor Koreans who have had to live and die there for another 8 years). Bush just took them off the axis list but he should have gone farther and declared an end to the cease fire that has been in place for 50+ years and an end to the hostilities with that nation.
World opinion – no grade matters – this is BS. First, there is no consensus on this that is at all objective. If you read foreign papers, then you know that most of those foreign countries have far bigger problems that the US in most areas. Also, the scale is different and they judge us with only the bad things in mind not the good. In addition, it is the opinion of people and not the countries and the people are not usually fully informed. A few thoughts:
- we are the only superpower so we will never get an amazing grade. When things go bad, it is easy to blame us but we don’t get credit for the good things. The Germans get mad at us all the time for stirring things up but if we would remove our military bases from their soil, their economy would plummet and unemployment would likely hit 20%.
- France gets upset with us but they are more upset that American tourism has dropped since they started offending us. They want our money but they don’t want us to be upset when they do things that upset our sensibilities.
- There are two other semi-superpowers (China and Russia) and if we get graded on their scale are we that much worse? Russia threatens Ukraine, Russia does military action in Georgia, Russia withholds gas from Germany, Russia nationalizes its largest energy company and imprisons its CEO, Russia poisons one of their citizens with nuclear radiation, China allows a neighbor to develop nukes, China allows a neighbor to have mass killings of monks, China imprisons political dissidents, China doesn’t really help a neighbor after one of the worst natural disasters of all time, China builds more coal plants than every nation combined, it is not healthy to drink the water in the majority of Chinese cities.
- The US leads in assistance to Africa. We almost double number 2 (UK). The other 2 pseudo-super powers? Not worth mentioning and they don’t make the ODA (Official Developmental Assistance) chart.
- The US gives over twice as much per GDP as any other nation! The closest 2nd and 3rd are Great Britain and Canada but they don’t even add to our PERCENTAGE OF GDP! China and Russia don’t even make the list.
- And it isn’t like we are military hawks either – even though we easily have the strongest military. While this data is a bit old and may be influenced by military expenditures in Iraq, we spend less of our GDP on the military budget than the other two pseudo powers – approximately 3.3% for US and 4.1% for China and 4.8% for Russia. That’s okay though because we have a military treaty with all members of NATO that says that if they are attacked, we will defend them to the same extent as if we are attacked. Our umbrella of protection is why we have a budget of 500+B and the combined budget of the rest of NATO is only about 300B. It is also why when something has to be done with Iraq 8 years ago, it was the US that foot the bill. If it has to be done, the world expects us to do it but they are more than willing to criticize us as well. If we would stop defending NATO, Japan and S. Korea, we would be able to easily cut our military budget in half as we have 90,000 troops in Europe, 26,000 in SK, and almost 50,000 in Japan. While I don’t condone isolationism, we don’t get any credit for the huge number of dollars that these bases put into those local economies.
So I really don’t buy the “world opinion” argument. We are in a class by ourselves in what we deliver to the rest of the world and we are far better than the other two semi-super powers on the planet. If the world hates us so much and is fair and objective than why does it not hate Russia and China more? It is because everyone hates the top dog that is pre-eminently the top dog. People will cheer for the winner of a close contest but they don’t like a contest where the winner is always the same and is never up for dispute. They are more than willing to accept our aid, accept our military defense, accept our financial support for their economy, accept our cultural leadership but then whine about us for the same. There is no moral opinion of the US that makes sense and it is not possible nor preferable for the POTUS to worry about it.
More on this topic later!
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