Thomas Paine once wrote, “We can only reason from what is; we can reason on actualities, but not on possibilities.” From the beginning, the Bush team’s foreign policy disregarded reality and ignored actuality. As a result, President Bush has spent four years delivering a nightmarishly costly and dangerous foreign policy. Taxpayers and American families already have paid dearly for the Bush-Cheney Washington excursion, and they will continue to pay long after Bush returns to Crawford, Texas.
- Scuttling the nascent effort to build peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel has had no real Palestinian negotiating partner for some time. America stands alone as a country that can influence Israel’s behavior while maintaining the region-wide credibility required to create a Palestinian political capability. Instead, Bush has provided what Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s senior advisor Dov Weinglass calls “formaldehyde” for any political process with the Palestinians. Only America, only in the post-Cold War period, and, as with Nixon and China, only a Republican president could make real political progress on this single, overwhelming issue that enervates and fuels global anti-American Islamic militancy. Instead, Bush took an immediate, costly and criminal pass on this dire responsibility of American leadership.
- Squandering post-9/11 international unity and good will toward America to pursue the neoconservative invasion and occupation of Iraq. This Bush-neoconservative operation might have worked, but his administration’s blatant never-ending dishonesty and purposeful lack of planning for real on-the-ground progress in Iraq trumped his Baghdad bait and switch. More than 20 reasons were put forth by the administration for the invasion of Iraq. Most were false and none made national security sense. The whole world reaps the whirlwind for this Bush disaster, symbolized by the Orwell-meets-corporate raider mandate he calls “pre-emptive defense.”
- Suspending deliberation, debate and progress on three very real threats to American security — global nuclear proliferation, politicized intelligence and the real nature of our non-state enemies. Bush invaded two countries with no nuclear or WMD capability while ignoring or even allying with far more dangerous nuclear regimes. He happily slurped the Kool-Aid of intelligence produced by a spastic Cold War intelligence machine and filtered through neoconservative ideologues. He energetically quadrupled the global geographical and political operating space for anti-American terrorism. It will take the full attention of several future White House administrations and money we don’t have to overcome the effect of George W. Bush’s brand of patriotism and his understanding of “evil” terrorists.
- Selling our children’s future through debt and deficit spending. To conduct wasteful wars of empire, and keep a fat Congress supportive of your plans, money must be spent by the billions and trillions. Instead of improving American productivity, Bush gave token tax rebates to workers that were consumed the month they were received by swelling food, housing, fuel and medical costs, while his elite business cronies figured out how to enjoy their massive tax cut and get more access to no-contest government contracts. While in part a domestic mistake, it cuts to the heart of national security. When Chinese and European investors call in these T-bills, and the neo-American empire falls apart, George W. Bush will be happily retired and not returning calls.
- Shattering political trust and historical ties to our oldest allies in Europe, without building or strengthening alternative relationships with any other part of the world. It is not only Europe that is forging ahead without America as a trusted partner, but the rest of the world as well. Colin Powell’s potential as Secretary of State was continually shredded by the neoconservative designers of the “real” Bush foreign policy. Bush not only stood by while non-elected ideologues campaigned for their agenda within shadowy corridors, he enthusiastically led the way in undercutting America’s global standing and influence.
Karen Kwiatkowski is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent four years working at the Pentagon. She is now an adjunct faculty member at James Madison University.