Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bush's final state of the union address

I don't go along with the views of most people I meet about Bush. It is almost de riguer to treat Bush as an unmitigated disaster. When you probe as to why, the comments tend to be "Iraq" or "foreign policy" or climate change. You see it's trendy to bash Bush. Michael Moore made it an art form, or indeed a multi-million dollar business, ironically - funny how little of that he uses to buy poor people health insurance isn't it?
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So I react to that, not because I think the Bush administration is an overwhelming success. However, I do acknowledge what has happened. Afghanistan and Iraq have been partial successes, and quite principled too (and contributed to Libya coming out from the cold). It has also been a relatively friendly administration for free trade, challenging Europe to match it on slashing agricultural subsidies at WTO talks - which the EU promptly said "no" to. Yes I can criticise Bush for excessive spending, and for the erosion of civil liberties as part of the war on terror, but I don't doubt that Bush believes in Western civilisation. He called Islamism Islamo-fascism, and he was dead right - you wont hear Gordon Brown say that, let alone Helen Clark, Anyway, so what of his final state of the union address? What DID he say?
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  • He called for a balanced budget, and not by increasing taxes. Good.
  • He wants to save Social Security. Bad, but hardly surprising.
  • He believes "Spreading opportunity and hope in America also requires public schools". Bad, public schools are the problem.
  • He wants public school control to be further devolved, and effectively endorsed education vouchers. Good, but it wont happen. Democrats don't like school choice or performance monitoring of schools or teachers.
  • He wants standard tax deductibility for health insurance. As far as this reduces taxes for those looking after themselves then good.
  • He wants to subsidise state programmes to fund private health insurance. Bad, it undermines the earlier programme, states should raise their funds locally.
  • He wants to establish a temporary worker programme for foreigners. Good.
  • He wants to use taxpayers' money to subsidise alternative fuels. Bad, let the market decide based on price signals.

None of this excites me particularly, in fact, sadly I can say at best it could be worse. However, Bush does inspire me in one direction - his response to Islamofascism. He said:

"Al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists, possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology. Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite. They preach with threats, instruct with bullets and bombs, and promise paradise for the murder of the innocent. Our enemies are quite explicit about their intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country. By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty. They would then be free to impose their will and spread their totalitarian ideology. Listen to this warning from the late terrorist Zarqawi: "We will sacrifice our blood and bodies to put an end to your dreams, and what is coming is even worse." Osama bin Laden declared: "Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us."

Take that "death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us". THAT is the enemy, as cold and murderous as that. THAT is who is appeased by withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iraq and by befriending Islamism. Bush continues:

"What every terrorist fears most is human freedom"

Indeed. It is as clear and stark as that. You wont hear this from Helen Clark, Ken Livingstone, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. In fact you wont hear it from the Green Party either. Listen carefully from the Presidential candidates this year, as to who talks of freedom, and who really believes it.
As Bush continues, talk of withdrawal from Iraq, like the left wants to do unconditionally is a nonsense:
"If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country -- and in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict. "
Islamist Iraq would be a disaster for Iraq, and its neighbours (except Iran), and the West.
Beyond that Bush talks of freedom elsewhere, although saying "We will continue to speak out for the cause of freedom in places like Cuba, Belarus, and Burma -- and continue to awaken the conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur." may be too short a list. I'd add Saudi Arabia, Russia and China as well. Realpolitik means it is easy to support freedom in relatively weak states, it takes more courage to confront Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.
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You see, flawed though he may be, Bush more than many of his critics, understands that the battle against Islamism is a battle for freedom, and a battle for Western civilisation. It is for this he should be remembered. His domestic record is not inspiring, and on balance perhaps mildly positive. However, internationally Bush has adopted a foreign policy that at best has overthrown evil murderous dictatorships, and at worst had mistakenly replaced them with democracies, not guided by secularism or freedom, but by milder forms of Islamism.
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The world is a dangerous place, but a withdrawn USA that ignored the hosts of its enemies would not make it safer. Beyond the rhetoric of the centre-left chattering classes, Bush understands that. Islamism is our most real and present enemy, confronting it not appeasing it is critical.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, I found your page by mistake, in search of a Scott Bush who is involved in the making of Templeton Rye Whiskey. Still I found it to be of interest that you are from New Zealand and you have a "positive" perception of President Bush. Further-more you call it "Trendy" to bash Bush.

I don't wish to be arguementative, more conversational if you choose to respond. I don't find it to be "trendy" to bash Bush. He is either one of the worst Presidents of all time based upon the decisions that he has made, Which I happen to believe, Or I'm not even sure what the other options are for how to measure his Presidency. Maybe 3 out of 10 people just believe that it is o.k. to wreaklessly dispose of evil dictators with no planning involved and there-fore creating more problems (although there are "a few success stories.")

I'm not sure if the supporters of Bush realize this, but for the same costs that go into turning Iraq into a "successful democracy" The United States could have focused their efforts on Afghanistan and possibly created a successful democracy there. Furthermore they could have supported hundreds of other worthwhile efforts to make an honest and true effort into making this world a better place in which to live.

You don't have to invade Iraq, or Iran to make this world a better place. Perhaps we can do other things instead to make this world a better place. Maybe we can address issues such as world hunger, or climate change or other things.

Maybe I'm being just being trendy!

Hit me up: gonzaga34@gmail.com