In the American kleptocracy, no bandits have made off better than the Bush clan, now seeking to put its third kleptocrat on the throne. Apparently if Jeb ascends many of the same geniuses responsible for the second Iraq war will be in his palace retinue (see “Jeb Bush Exposed Part 1,” SLL, 2/20/15). Instead of surrounding himself with their nonstop interventionist drumbeat, Jeb would be better off with a heart-to-heart on foreign and military policy with his dad. That’s not an endorsement of Mr. New World Order, just a preference, if we have to have another Bush presidency, for a policy that is not as insane as brother George W. Bush’s. Expanding on Clinton interventionism, G.W. promulgated the doctrine that the US could go after anyone it deemed a terrorist anywhere on the planet, without the consent of governments of the countries in which the US pursued said terrorists. G.H.W.‘s policy was not, by any stretch, ideal, it was just not as deranged as G.W.‘s.
When the US-led coalition repelled Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991, President Bush was urged by many to allow the military, which was in Iraq and 150 miles from Baghdad, to press on to the capital and get rid of Hussein. Instead, Bush declared Kuwait liberated and instituted a cease-fire and withdrawal of coalition forces. Unfortunately, the US sent mixed messages. Rebels against Hussein in southern Iraq and in Kurdish northern Iraq took encouragement from Voice of America and other US sources that their rebellion would be supported by the coalition’s military forces, which they were not. Iraq’s military crushed the rebels, and millions of Kurds fled to Turkey and Iran. Notwithstanding this tragedy, Bush completed the withdrawal.
Bush was acting on a principle: a nation invaded by another could call on the assistance of allies to repel the invasion. Upon that principle, Bush put together a coalition of 34 nations. The merits of the principle or its applications can be debated, but at least it was a clearly delineated principle, one which restricted US military action to a limited set of circumstances. The principle only justified US action to help thwart the Kuwait invasion. As Bush recognized, once that objective was attained, it was time for the US to go home. This was a far cry from his son’s later claim that the US could go where it wanted in pursuit of those it deemed terrorists. Whether or not Saddam and his henchmen were deemed terrorists, deposing him would have breached the father’s principle and fractured the coalition.
1991 was an eventful year; in December President Mikhail Gorbachev resigned and the USSR ceased to exist. Gorbachev insists that assurances were given by the Bush administration that the US would not take advantage of the situation by incorporating the newly independent nations of the Warsaw Pact into NATO, in exchange for Gorbachev’s assent to the reunification of Germany. Having lost 18 million to WW II, The USSR was understandably insecure about its neighbors on its west, through which Hitler had invaded and inflicted most of the Soviet Union’s war casualties. Whether or not an assurance was given, and it probably was (see “Put It In Writing, How the West Broke Its Promise to Moscow,” foreignaffairs.com), Bush did not expand NATO.
Bill Clinton proposed eastern NATO expansion at his first NATO summit in 1994, saying it “should enlarge steadily, deliberately, openly” (see “Bill Clinton’s Epic Double-Cross: How “Not An Inch” Brought NATO to Russia’s Border,” SLL, 2/16/15). During Clinton’s tenure, former Warsaw Pact nations Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic joined (1999), and most of the rest of the Warsaw Pact were admitted in 2004. George Kennan, architect of the US’s “containment” policy after World War II, had warned in a letter to The New York Times on February 5, 1997, that: “Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era. Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”
Such considerations may well have prompted the restraint of George H.W. Bush that his son and Clinton threw to the wind. Kennan’s characterization of Russia and East-West relations rings prophetic. The elder Bush had been the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and had a fair amount of experience in foreign affairs. His refusal to “take out” Saddam Hussein and to expand NATO were hard-headed calculations based on that experience. The proponents of America’s ever-expanding interventionism had their way with Clinton and Bush, governors with little foreign policy experience. Hillary Clinton, who has sworn allegiance to the interventionist cause, and the two foreign policy neophytes who are shaping up as the frontrunners for the Republican nomination—former governor of Florida Jeb Bush and current governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker—will be putty in their hands. Whoever ends up as president, the interventionists are assured that George H.W. Bush’s wisdom, limiting US power in Iraq and eastern Europe, will be nothing more than a historical memory, treated as an unenlightened curiosity of a bygone era.