Meanwhile, Somewhere in Texas…

Once upon a time there was an American president. No great diplomat, he took pleasure in calling a spade a spade and was beloved by his supporters for his plain-spoken folksiness. He called ‘em as he say ‘em and left no-one in any doubt as to what was on his mind. He was a president in time of war, indeed he faced two major conflicts, one that had widespread support, one that was contentious and would contribute to his downfall. He had no illusions about using American firepower against her enemies though he could do little to prevent a free fall in the polls that saw him leave office with opinion poll ratings in the 20s.

If you still think this is a description of W. then think again. This was Harry S. Truman, whom decades later has been extolled as a ‘near great’ American president whose actions initiated the successful policies that helped ‘win’ the Cold War.

Why is any of this relevant?

What if history is repeating itself?

Consider how the events that are occurring in North Africa right now could be considered to be George W. Bush’s legacy to the world. Recall his Freedom Agenda? What was the theory behind the invasion of Iraq? To export democracy. That removing Saddam from power would give rise to a ripple effect that could lead to a democratic and peaceful Middle East.

We are not there just yet, of course. The concept of a prevailing legacy for Bush was floated before he left office, in part by my good friends Tim Lynch and Rob Singh in their text, After Bush. Not all will agree, and again I direct you to the work of Oz Hassan and his forthcoming text on the subject.

None of this is guaranteed of course, but as I indicated on Talk Radio Europe this evening, it is based on a reading of history that reveals that the past can all too often be manipulated to a political conclusion at odds with thinking at the time. However, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that in years to come, people will look back at the events that occurred this year and link it all back to W. and his polices that were so reviled at the time.

George W. Bush as this generation’s Harry S. Truman? You heard it here first!

2 thoughts on “Meanwhile, Somewhere in Texas…

  1. The outcome of the Middle East has yet to be determined. The outcome of George W. Bush’s domestic policies has already been determined: the doubling of our national debt and the near total collapse of our economy. Swell.

  2. Your remarks reminded me of Condoleezza Rice’s favourite answer when asked about the poor standing of President Bush in opinion poll ratings and the legacy of his presidency. She used to say that today’s headlines and history’s judgements are rarely the same. The parallel between the two presidents struck me as very interesting and I would like to add some of my views on the issue.

    The truth is that Harry S. Truman didn’t inherit a clean slate when he came to office and the problems he had to deal with were partly the result of his predecessor’s policies. On the contrary, George W. Bush was determined, from the very beginning to set a completely different course as opposed to the Clinton administration. And his efforts to differentiate himself also translated into his policies in the Middle East region.

    What I see as a common feature of the Bush and Truman presidencies is the fact that their decreasing popularity was due to a number of unintended consequences produced by their decisions. As for Truman, he devoted so much of his energy to end World War II that he needed more time than he thought to create a plan for the post-war US and its growing unemployment, which was later reflected in his poor standing in the public opinion.

    Even though Bush had a comprehensive vision for the Middle East he failed to assess the given circumstances as well as the possible impact of his steps ( the Sunni-Shiite rivalry, the increasing influence of Iran, the attitudes of other countries). The mix of all this may have created an impression that democracy in Iraq was in fact imposed and created overnight. I myself come from the country which won the fight for democracy twenty years ago after the Soviet Union finally collapsed and there still are questions about the real value of democracy as such.

    Last but not least it was Harry Truman who said that ““it is easier to remove tyrants and concentration camps than it is to kill the ideas which gave them birth.” Today the statement could be applied to the fight against the terrorist threat, which President Bush emphasized so much throughout his tenure. As Madeleine Albright puts it in one of her books we can only imagine how Truman would react if faced with terrorism as we know it today.

    All in all, it is said that history is the fairest judge and so we will have to wait for the moment when the Bush administration’s legacy will be looked at from different perspectives and I think the recent events in the Arab world may really accelerate the whole process.

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