No Comment — November 26, 2007, 12:07 am

The Bush Touch: Turning Friends into Enemies

George W. Bush came to power on January 20, 2001. He inherited the most powerful military force ever assembled in human history, and the most significant system of military alliances that any nation had ever constructed. It would be wrong to say that this was the product of the Administration of Bill Clinton. More accurately, it was the result of a bipartisan tradition in foreign policy and defense planning that stretched back to the era of Truman. Bush, however, was intent on using foreign adventures as a partisan political tool to enhance his grip on the helm of state. And he had little patience for or interest in alliances. The theme of his seven years of foreign and defense policy has been unilateralism.

One by one the leaders on the world stage who put their faith in Bush and thoughtlessly did his bidding have fallen in disgrace, usually rejected by their own voters. The first to go were Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and Spain’s José María Aznar. Then Britain’s Tony Blair was forced to surrender 10 Downing Street to his Chancellor of the Exchequer, to give Labour a fighting chance to hold a majority in the next election. In the last week, Jaros?aw Kaczy?ski, a conservative ally in Poland fell, and over the weekend, Bush’s most faithful follower in the entire pack, the veritable boot-licker John Howard of Australia. In each case, the association with George W. Bush was electoral cyanide to voters back home.

Says former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt, a man close to Bush’s father and to Henry Kissinger, in a recent interview with Die Zeit, given the choice between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush, he’ll opt for the man in the Kremlin. Bush 43 is just “too dangerous.”

When Bush’s presidency is written up for the history books, one aspect will merit a special chapter, and that is the amazing alchemy by which Bush turned America’s staunchest allies around the world into disaffected onlookers, if not in fact enemies. He is gifted with the opposite of the diplomatic Midas touch.

Another story out on Sunday, following right on the heels of the crushing defeat Australian voters dealt to John Howard, showed the depth of the problem, which most Americans underassess.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Anglican Primate, is not exactly a radical priest. He’s been solidly on the traditionalist side of the debates within the Anglican Communion on issues such as the ordination of women, the consecration of homosexuals as bishops and he has no equivocation in condemning abortion. But Williams’s conservatism had led him repeatedly to question the wisdom of Prime Minister Blair’s alignment with the United States in the War on Terror. And in an interview published this weekend, he unloaded. In fact, he called George W. Bush’s America a threat to Christian civilization. The Sunday Times (London) reports:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the United States wields its power in a way that is worse than Britain during its imperial heyday. Rowan Williams claimed that America’s attempt to intervene overseas by “clearing the decks” with a “quick burst of violent action” had led to “the worst of all worlds”.

In a wide-ranging interview with a British Muslim magazine, the Anglican leader linked criticism of the United States to one of his most pessimistic declarations about the state of western civilisation.
He said the crisis was caused not just by America’s actions but also by its misguided sense of its own mission. He poured scorn on the “chosen nation myth of America, meaning that what happens in America is very much at the heart of God’s purpose for humanity”. . .

Williams suggested American leadership had broken down: “We have only one global hegemonic power. It is not accumulating territory: it is trying to accumulate influence and control. That’s not working.” He contrasted it unfavourably with how the British Empire governed India. “It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly, that’s what the British Empire did — in India, for example. “It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put it back together — Iraq, for example.”

Update
A reader notes that today the Boston Globe has published an entire photogallery to accompany my post. It’s entitled “Bush’s Disappearing Alliances,” and can be viewed here.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

  • Jim Crapanzano

    I’m addressing this 2007 article from a historical perspective with 7 years to go on. I’m glad I found it! This article is just another Bush Bashing Joke–And hey-hey campers, I was no Fan of George the second either, I shouted long and loud against Halliburton’s war, and truly hope, as an avowed agnostic, that there is a hell for him and Dick, to burn in. But fair is fair, and propaganda is propaganda–as we can see here by reading between the lines, just a little bit, with the benefit of hindsight, If we do so, AND if one has a reasonable, non-partisan, mind, and any inkling about what’s been going on in England these past 7 years, we can see the Liberal agenda all over it, despite it’s meager attempts to dull it’s shine.

    Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Anglican Primate, attacks. But who is his audience, when he claims, “In fact, he called George W. Bush’s America a threat to Christian civilization.”
    His audience? a British (sic Unnamed) Muslim magazine! So, we can plainly see that the Arch Bishop, was playing into the hand of UK liberalism that demanded that Islam was/is right as rain.
    Next: “He poured scorn on the “chosen nation myth of America, meaning that what
    happens in America is very much at the heart of God’s purpose for
    humanity”. . .
    While I can’t help but agree with part of this, at that time, America was not sucking Islams. . .what’s Arabic for dork?
    Fast forward to 2014. What would the Bishop say today, as the Muslims have declared that ‘This is Not Your Country anymore?” That Britton is NOT a Christian country, as they demand mre and more and have established No-Go Zones that are under strickt Shira rule? As no member of the UK Military can walk the streets without fear of being decapitated in the streets of London in broad day light? Can the Arch Bishop now see through his rose colored, liberal clouded glasses and see that the real agenda of Islam in Europe is to use it’s freedoms to create an Islamc Europe where all must bow to the 4th century?
    Naaaa, I didn’t think so!

    And now, 7 Years later and 5 years into the Obama mistake, has Barack Hussein turned these enemies into friends? NO, they hate him even more than they did Bush! Even as he gives them even more.

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2015

The Trouble with Israel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Camera on Every Cop

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

New Books

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the Shadow of the Storm

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Part Neither, Part Both·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Eight months pregnant I told an old woman sitting beside me on the bus that the egg that hatched my baby came from my wife’s ovaries. I didn’t know how the old woman would take it; one can never know. She was delighted: That’s like a fairy tale!”
Mother with Children, by Gustav Klimt © akg-images
Article
What Recovery?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Between 2007 and 2010, Albany’s poverty rate jumped 12 points, to a record high of 39.9 percent. More than two thirds of Albany’s 76,000 residents are black, and since 2010, their poverty rate has climbed even higher, to nearly 42 percent.”
Photograph by Will Steacy
Article
Rag Time·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

From a May 23 commencement address delivered at Hofstra University. Doctorow died on Tuesday. He was 84.
“We are a deeply divided nation in danger of undergoing a profound change for the worse.”
Photograph by Giuseppe Giglia
Article
The Trouble with Israel·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“We think we are the only people in the world who live with threat, but we have to work with regional leaders who will work with us. Bibi is taking the country into unprecedented international isolation.”
Photograph by Adam Golfer
Post
Greece, Europe, and the United States·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“A progressive Europe—the Europe of sustainable growth and social cohesion—would be one thing. The gridlocked, reactionary, petty, and vicious Europe that actually exists is another. It cannot and should not last for very long.”

Photograph by Stefan Boness

Percentage of Americans who say they would have cosmetic surgery if they could afford it:

69

An upside-down rainbow appeared over England.

Hackers breached Ashley Madison, a website that facilitates extramarital relationships, compromising the private information of millions of users. “This could be a boon,” said one lawyer, “for divorce attorneys.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today