Potomac Fever is the blog of the Hamilton College Semester in Washington Program.
This is almost as bad as the people who think Obama's speech in Cairo was responsible for the uprisings in the Middle East. Is this article even serious? Every single 'link' that the author makes between Bush's rambling/semi-incoherent words about Ronald Reagan and democracy is simply speculation by the author in trying to bridge the gap to fit his argument:"Did George W. Bush foresee this? Like Reagan, he tended to speak more generally, but he was specific enough that we can say that Bush would not be surprised at current events" Did George Bush foresee this? Well, maybe not. But he spoke generally and empitly enough to never offer enough specifics to offer an actual vision, so no matter what happens, BUSH FORESAW IT!I wonder if Bush foresaw the 2006 elections in Palestine going in Hamas' favor. It was a particularly great moment in Bush's freedom-promoting agenda, when he embraced the results of a democratic election in the region that he apparently democratized through the power of persuasion. What? We didn't like those results, so we acted like it didn't happen? Doesn't matter. Bush loves freedom. "In this section of the speech, Bush called out, by name, Iraq, Syria, the Taliban, but clearly was also referring to the likes of Gaddafi." Because of course it makes sense to credit Bush for a Libyan Revolution by saying that one time he called out the Taliban. "Did George W. Bush think this freedom tide would swell during his lifetime? My estimation is that, like Reagan, he did not expect it to happen quickly. Also, he would be very concerned about autocrats being supplanted not by Muslim democrats but by Muslim theocrats." Translation: I am going to credit George Bush by imagining his thought process to suit my argument. By my estimation, this appears to be a foolproof plan. "Next, George W. Bush made a statement that every liberal ought to love. He pointed the finger at America and the West for 'sixty years' of 'excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East,' which 'did nothing to make us safe' and came 'at the expense of liberty... Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results. As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace.'"Which is why we all remember George Bush charting a bold path that involved urging democratization in countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. OH WAIT. That didn't happen. My bad. But hey, since in a bunch of speeches he mentioned the word 'freedom' and 'Middle East,' he deserves full credit for a bunch of people who probably hate him as much as they hate the dictators they're rising up against. "Like Reagan, Bush understood the power of that freedom, and that once freedom was uncorked, out of the bottle, it was contagious."The true test of a good conservative fluff piece is how many references to the great Ronald Reagan it can make.
This article, in no way, credits Bush for what is happening in the Middle East . Please cite the line that does. Bush's message was CONSISTENTLY that the middle east is ready for democracy, the people want democracy, and that freedom is contagious. I can't help but see a connection between this "incoherent babbling" and what is going on in the middle east. (Not a cause and effect, but a good evaluation). Remember the arguments that the Middle East is too politically immature for democracy, that democracy could never work in an Islamic country? Well these are the arguments that Bush took on and he was, without a doubt, correct. Nowhere in this article does it mention that Bush's methods for supporting democracy were successful or behind the protests in the Middle East. I do not see the argument that the U.S., a strong democracy, should not support pro-democracy movements against oppressive dictators. I would rather have a president who stood for something than one who stands for nothing.
The article is an attempt at revisionist history to try to credit Bush for democratic upheaval.I guess you could say the article isn't trying to credit Bush for what's happening, except for that part where they, you know, directly push a connection between the democratic movement and Bush:"As we watch the growing demand that Middle East autocrats and dictators step down, from Iran in June 2009 to Egypt and Libya this February, on the heels of repeated elections in post-Taliban Afghanistan and post-Saddam Iraq, the wisdom of two presidents keeps coming to mind." The rest of the article, as with the quotes I've already discussed, are all not-so-subtle attempts at aligning events with Bush's vision. "Remember the arguments that the Middle East is too politically immature for democracy, that democracy could never work in an Islamic country? Well these are the arguments that Bush took on and he was, without a doubt, correct."No, the argument that Bush more forcefully made than the flowery rhetoric he'd use from time to time that democracy would work if the United States IMPOSED that democracy on the Middle East. If Bush's argument was that freedom is contagious, then the failure of his own foreign policy is only magnified even further, since his Iraqi freedom venture provided no sort of democratic sparkplug, which instead came from a young Tunisian merchant. So no, Bush wasn't 'right.' What most people have always argued is that democratic transition, wherever it happens in the world, happen on its own schedule. With the Middle East, a number of different factors helped contribute to the democratic push: the youth bulge, technological advancements that made the population more and more aware of their subjugation, social media as an organizing tool, Islamic theological shifts, and the inherent instability of authoritarian regimes, among many other factors that deserve further exploration.But you're dramatically simplifying the argument to take the leap and say that 'Bush was right' because he tried to accelerate the process in order to suit whatever agenda it was he was pursuing, all in the name of being big hearted freedom loving American.
The argument was less that democracy could never work in the Middle East (though there are some, mostly right wingers who didn't embrace neoconservatism, that did make that argument). With Bush, the argument was whether or not it should be the onus of the United States to actively try to create democratic regimes around the world. Bush was a nation-building advocate, and given that the Iraqi democracy is so fragile and unpopular that it, too, is facing an opposition movement in light of all of these protests, the evidence suggests, once again, that Bush was not 'right' (which is not even getting into our other democratic nation-building quagmire, Afghanistan).These revolutions are self-made, which is what most people advocate is the better course of regime change. If we're saying that we should credit Bush for making that argument too, which is what I think you're trying to do, then I say, fine, let's give Bush credit for being right, and let's also recognize then that he wasn't capable of following his own advice (which wasn't actually his advice, but you catch my drift). The article you posted is trying to justify Bush's neoconservative foreign policy, by trying to connect these movements to Bush (and inexplicably, Reagan). His closing argument sounds very much like someone trying to make the case that Bush was the one who set the groundwork for these revolutions (saying that it's a shame Bush wasn't followed by someone who could, "could help secure what he started"), which is just absolute rubbish."I do not see the argument that the U.S., a strong democracy, should not support pro-democracy movements against oppressive dictators."Red herring. No one is talking about that. "I would rather have a president who stood for something than one who stands for nothing."Tough talk, but if 'standing for something' means getting us into stupid and unnecessary wars and causing hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, maybe we should reconsider choosing that one, I'd say. Obama stands for democracy as much as Bush did, which is to say, he makes feel-good speeches about it but otherwise clings to the authoritarians we're allies with for as long as possible. The only difference is that he hasn't sent us guns-blazing into some country for invasion in the name of democracy just yet.
Same theme was the main emphasis of second inaugural address:http://spectator.org/archives/2011/02/25/bushs-middle-east-march-of-fre/
So according to you, Bush paraded around trying to turn everything into a democracy. "With Bush, the argument was whether or not it should be the onus of the United States to actively try to create democratic regimes around the world." But Bush did not do that as you aknowledged. "Which is why we all remember George Bush charting a bold path that involved urging democratization in countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. OH WAIT. That didn't happen."Countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia are relatively stable in comparison Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush did not ever try to create a democracy in either of them by using force. Probably because massive human rights violations weren't happening and they did not pose a major threat to U.S. security. Bush did, however push verbally for a change in the status quo (something that Obama has never done). "The great and proud nation of Egypt has shown the way toward peace in the Middle East, and now should show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."Sounds pretty imposing.So what were the countries that Bush is guilty of imposing democracy on like before he completely ruined them with his ego-centric freedom agenda? Let's start with Iraq. I'll copy and paste from my last argument because it is relevant. We'll start with Iraq. Nearly a million deaths can be linked directly or indirectly to Suddam Hussein. His methods include torture, secret police, oppression of women and gays, chemical gas, spreading anti-American sentiment, MASS GENOCIDE OF HIS OWN PEOPLE etc. etc. What is the difference between Iraq and Rwanda? Can you seriously argue that Iraq was better off then than they are now? What should we have done? tougher sanctions? We tried that, and all they did was lower the quality of life for the Iraqi people even more. Sanctions have never successfully removed a dictator. Now for Afghanistan. The Taliban confined women to their houses, executed them publicly, denied them health care or education. It forced people to follow the sharia and killed those who did. It invoked hatred of America among its people. The Taliban massacred thousands of people and led hundreds of thousands to war. The Taliban gave shelter to Al-queda and Osama Bin Laden after they KILLED 3,000 PEOPLE ON AMERICAN SOIL. Maybe Bush did not handle the situations correctly but please give me your proposal for what should have been done regarding these countries- both of which were a major threat to American Security, and had massive human rights violations. The idea that democracy must happen on its own is fine for many countries with thuggish dictators who do not commit atrocities or pose threats to U.S. security. Bush seemed to follow this notion. But in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan are women supposed to sit confined in their houses and be killed in the street until the political climate allows them to do otherwise. Are we supposed to wait for another 9/11 attack so we can have a "purely homegrown" revolution. How many years would this take? How many lives would have been taken? My argument is not that Bush caused the revolutions in the Middle East (and of course it would be incredibly ego-centric and naive of me to think that anybody in the Middle East could have POSSIBLY looked at America as an example of a successful democracy!). My argument is not that Bush knew that democracies should be homegrown. I agree he pushed his democracy agenda a bit much. My argument is simply that Bush was right about freedom. It is contagious. It is ALWAYS right, and it is what EVERYONE wants.
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