News & Analysis
Is Middle East Freedom the Bush Legacy?
Egypt protests show George W. Bush (left) was right about freedom in the Arab world ... For decades, the Arab states have seemed exceptions to the laws of politics and human nature. While liberty expanded in many parts of the globe, these nations were left behind, their "freedom deficit" signaling the political underdevelopment that accompanied many other economic and social maladies. In November 2003, President George W. Bush laid out this question: "Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom and never even to have a choice in the matter?"... So a new set of questions becomes critical. What lesson will Arab regimes learn? Will they undertake the steady reforms that may bring peaceful change, or will they conclude that exiled Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali erred only by failing to shoot and club enough demonstrators? And will our own government learn that dictatorships are never truly stable? – Washington Post
Dominant Social Theme: The West must shoulder the burden of providing freedom worldwide.
Free-Market Analysis: Here at the Bell, we analyze the dominant social themes of the elite; Elliot Abrams who wrote the article excerpted above provides us with an excellent example of the use of what we refer to as the Hegelian dialectic. Who is Elliott Abrams? Among other things, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration.
Abrams, in fact, is surely one of the "wise men" of Washington, and as such is connected to many of DC's most prestigious quasi-governmental organs. The Council on Foreign Relations itself has a long history of providing policy assessment and high-level advisors to various presidents going back at least as far as Woodrow Wilson. In this article, Abrams skillfully presents the kind of dialectic we often refer to – and thus provides a good platform for analysis.
Abrams frames a question in the article that demands answering and then answers it: That's how he controls the article's thesis. He proposes the parameters of the argument and then offers solutions within its limits. The choices he offers are the ones that President Bush himself presented (or so he argues): Either the peoples of the Middle East are going to continue to suffer under despotism or their governments will learn that democracy is a better alternative.
Abrams admits that the US government is not without fault, even though Bush did his best – Abrams maintains – to bring freedom to the Middle East. Again, these are rhetorical points and as such provide a platform for Abram's underlying point, which is apparently to rehabilitate President Bush's reputation as a decent, caring man who strove to act peaceably in a violent world.
We are not sure why this effort is ongoing. We noticed it began with Haiti, where former President Bush agreed to help manage a fund-raising effort for that earthquake battered country along with former President Bill Clinton. Many Internet sites along with magazines and newspapers have carried advertisements for the fund featuring profiles of Bush and Clinton staring resolutely into the distance. Bush recently wrote a book as well, one called "Decision Points" and toward the end of 2010 embarked on a mini-media tour to publicize it.
The book featured important decisions made during the presidency, as well as in his personal life. In various interviews he defended them and attempted to put them in context. Three of them seemed to stand out: First was standing under the "Mission Accomplished" banner in 2003 in order to announce an end to major combat operations in Iraq – when in fact the bulk of the war was yet to be waged.
A second decision point was flying over New Orleans in Air Force One and releasing a photo that showed him staring out an airplane window at the devastation below. Since his back was to the camera, it was difficult to determine Bush's reaction to the flooding and as Bush himself admits, the photo made him look "detached and uncaring."
The third has to do with torture. Bush defends various interrogation techniques that have traditionally been considered torture. This includes the waterboarding used to question Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, supposedly a strategist in the 9/11 World Trade Tower attacks. But he allowed waterboarding only after consulting with top White House legal officials. "I'm not a lawyer," Bush explained in one interview, "but you've got to trust the judgment of people around you, and I do."
In fact, Bush's "positives" have rebounded from the 20-30 percent lows of the end of his term in his office. But he remains an acutely polarizing figure and in a recent interview on C-SPAN TV, he announced he was giving up politics and even fund-raising. Here's how the interview was reported by AP:
Former president George W. Bush says he is through with politics, fundraising and campaigning — and has no interest in political punditry ... "I don't want to go out and campaign for candidates. I don't want to be viewed as a perpetual money-raiser. I don't want to be on these talk shows giving my opinion, second-guessing the current president. I think it's bad for the country, frankly, to have a former president criticize his successor. It's tough enough to president as it is without a former president undermining the current president. Plus, I don't want to do that." He added that he finds this stage of his post-presidency "very comfortable" and "somewhat liberating." He also acknowledged the irony of using the C-SPAN TV interview to underscore that he does not want to be on TV.
One wonders why Bush went through all the trouble of writing a book and going on a press tour to publicize it, only to reverse course a few months later and announce that he was through politics and, apparently, public life. It could be argued that Bush proceeded on this course because many wished him to defend his legacy, which has remained under attack. Presidents often represent larger political forces at work and Bush in particular represented a robust form of military and regulatory democracy that has expressed itself with greater emphasis in the latter stages of America's development.
In a sense, the public's continued rejection of Bush is a rejection of this legacy, which is one reason perhaps why Bush has mounted a defense of it even though he confesses he is weary of the task. Yet the larger reason for his withdrawal from the public stage may have to do with the indefensibleness of what he and his supporters are trying to justify.
The initial event – 9/11 – that kicked off several serial wars, the irradiation of two countries, millions likely dead, wounded or sickened, has never been adequately explained or investigated; Bush himself remained resistant to a full investigation throughout his term. Senior members of the 9/11 Commission itself found the Bush administration to be less than truthful; the Commission's lead litigator has written a book on the subject. In fact, Bush initially did not wish to have any sort of committee formed to investigate 9/11.
The many controversies of the Bush administration flow from the botched investigation into 9/11. These include the creation and expansion of some 16 US spy agencies that are apparently aimed mostly at the US middle class and utilize what is increasingly a policy of unlimited, warrantless wiretapping, along with the abrogation of US civil liberties under the Patriot Act.
Bush also pioneered rendition policies that have kidnapped and tortured an undefined number of innocents. Under his administration, government and the national debt expanded tremendously; regulatory activity expanded from its previous intolerable high under Clinton; America's military industrial complex was greatly advantaged and the country itself was further militarized.
Bush did nothing about the eroding dollar-reserve system advanced by the US, or the irresponsible monetary and fiscal system generally. He was content to use the eroding levers of the US government to generate dubious, serial wars that even to this day American officials cannot discuss with any degree of rationality. He even defined himself as a "war president" – though he was never able to articulate logical reasons for the wars.
Today, the US struggles with the outcome of the Bush presidency – and many of President Barack Obama's problems are ones that were initially created by Bush. Chief among these problems is the increasing lack of consensus over America's role in the world. The problems that Bush has bequeathed to Obama can be seen in the administration's current confusion over the Middle East. Bush did nothing to dismantle the US's Intel-industrial complex – and in fact increased it dramatically – and thus we see reports that US intel is intimately involved in both the Tunisian and Egyptian "color revolutions."
It seems, in fact, that US intel may have decided to destabilize a large swath of the Middle East – and we have speculated in numerous recent articles that this may in fact entail the creation of unity governments that will eventually include elements of Islamic radicalism and fundamentalism. The idea may be to in a sense expand the war on terror to justify further crackdowns at home. Perhaps there was nothing that Bush could do to reverse forward progress of American authoritarianism (given the power-elite's preference for it), but history will record that he greatly facilitated its expansion.
The US federal government is far more intrusive today – overtly anyway – at home and abroad than it was prior to Bush's administration. In a sense, the Obama administration has merely been a care-taker, elaborating the themes that Bush set in motion. It should be noted that the ruin of the Bush administration was carried out under the unblinking gaze of the Internet. Bush either did not understand the ramifications of this technology or was impervious to its effects. But the result of Bush's authoritarian blundering has spawned a domestic, libertarian uprising – the Tea Party – and one could argue that the turmoil now affecting Africa and the Middle East are in large part a Bush legacy as well.
Abrams and the other wise men in Washington DC will no doubt continue to interpret Bush's legacy positively. But the truth-telling of the Internet has shredded the rational for his wars and exposed as well as the brutality and mendacity behind the administration's domestic and foreign security policies.
Bush could have disengaged American support for the dictators of the Middle East. He chose instead to support the authoritarian nature of these regimes and continued business-as-usual. Now the Middle East is in throes of roiling upheavals and the Obama administration and the US intel community is desperately attempting to "manage" the revolutions.
In fact, while these color revolutions have been manipulated, there is every evidence that the majority of those involved in the protests are sincere about their aspirations to build better, freer lives. This could hardly be further from what the CIA, MI6 and Mossad apparently intend to provide, however. But part of the Bush legacy is that these sorts of destabilizations are evolving in the Internet era when many in the Middle East are perfectly aware of the history of larger Western manipulations.
Has the proverbial die been cast? It would be our prediction that Western plans for the Middle East will proceed apace, but that they will not succeed this time in creating the expected outcome. Like Bush himself, the Western power elite continues to utilize 20th century strategies in a 21st century. This is a reason to predict further – serious – chaos in the Middle East (the kind that could affect oil prices and stock markets around the world). In fact, we would tend to believe that problems will tend to get worse not better, especially if food prices continue to rise. The power elite evidently wants a good deal of regime change in Africa and the Middle East for reasons we have mentioned.
Conclusion: We would argue, nonetheless, that the elite's ability to manage change has been circumscribed by the Internet and resultant ramifications, and this will add yet another complicating factor to the unfolding events. This is also a reason why Bush's legacy will take a long time to burnish – despite the efforts of wise men such as Elliot Abrams.
Editor's Note: According to a breaking AP report, Jordan's King Abdullah II has fired government ministers after determined, ongoing (though little covered) street protests; an ex-army general will seek to form a new Cabinet.
Posted by Eatonarb@gmail.com on 02/02/11 06:00 PM
Editors: I much enjoy your perspective on world events. Perhaps it's the heaady winds of the Alps that so invigorates you. Keep it up. And, please note the new email address above:
eatonarb@Click to view link
Posted by Ned Delaney on 02/02/11 03:56 PM
"Former president George W. Bush says he is through with politics, fundraising and campaigning." Thank god for small favors. That still doesn't account for the noxous of Constitutional law, lies, and cover ups associated with 9/11 and the Iraq and Afghan Wars. How many souls will be waiting when he and members of his admin. finally give the world a moment of peace by re-leaving us of their presence?
Posted by John Danforth on 02/02/11 08:21 AM
Sure, a lot of people weren't aware--yet. But no rewriting of history can obscure the fact that it was RON Paul's candidacy that started the movement.
Posted by Pimpernel on 02/02/11 05:53 AM
@ Steve L. on 2/1/2011 2:29:00 PM: "Strange bedfellows indeed, or are they two arms that extend from the same shrouded source, both of them fostering and benefitting from movement of the world into two warring camps: the Judeo-Christian and Islamic?"
It works in Click to view linkrtisan "Republican" and "Democrat" mundanes think that when they elect their "party" things will change; with the false "duality" given them they don't realize other options are necessary or possible.
Posted by Jim Bo on 02/02/11 02:26 AM
George Bush=freedom? You've got to be kidding. Mr. Illegal overseas wars, Mr Patriot Act, Mr Bank bailouts, Mr. NAFTA and open borders, etc. I'm not convinced. Ron Paul and the Libertarians are the way to go not Neocons.
Posted by Jeannie Queenie on 02/01/11 10:52 PM
@ Dawgfather & DB....What spawned the tea party movement early 2009, was NOT Rand Paul, but the day that Rick Santelli hollered from the Chicago Mercantile exchange floor, February 19, 2009 his famous outcry..."Do you want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage". This, in response to the Obama Administration's proposal to help homeowners facing foreclosure with the ability to refinance mortgages. ALL AT OUR EXPENSE..AND SINCE THEN, MANY HAVE BEEN LET OFF THE HOOK. MANY MORTGAGE FIRMS HAD BEEN PLAYING a game of musical mortgages with papers getting lost along the way, hence, some judges awarded people their homes AND NO MORTGAGE when banks or mortgage companies couldn't supply paperwork proving who paid and what.
Before Santelli's rant, a Seattle mother began a website protesting Obama's proposed $750 billion stimulus package, otherwise dubbed the porkulus protest. This did NOT happen under Bush. The tea party happened as a result of the insane spending under a new administration, coupled with what Dawgfather says above...that Nancy Pelosi was on Bush's watch for two years before the change of seats. Lest we forget, it was a democratic congress that passed much under W's reign. Yes, Bush did run up a deficit and he wrongly enacted that Medicare bill which could bury us all, but the really nasty stuff accelerated under Obama, Pelosi, Reid and Barney Frank. What damage that Bush did in eight years Obama's administration did eight fold in less than a year!! THIS IS FACT!
No government has a right to force people to buy anything, be it healthcare, a car, a mortgage, whatever. No government has the right to cover the butts of their cohorts in banking, mortgage industries or other. Especially when they are forcing the citizens to pick up the risk while allowing the bankers or corporations to obtain all profits. This latter has happened under the present administration, thus proving that when americans were told they would get change, it was in fact, a lie. Reminds me of that old Russian Joke where the general tells his troops, Men I have good news and bad news...first the good news..."Tomorrow you all get to change underwear", and now the bad news..."Boris you change with Orgo". Either way, these boxers aren't washing out right.
Read more: History of the Tea Party Movement — Click to view link Click to view link
Posted by Raymond on 02/01/11 08:13 PM
What you are seeing in the Near East is the merger of Marxism and Islam. The entire region in now on fire. This will end with the loss of all liberty in the region. We propped up a dictator for 30 years; does anyone really wonder why they hate us? Can anyone spell "IRAN" all over again?
Posted by Robert on 02/01/11 08:06 PM
THe fault lies not in our stars (Bush, Clinton, Obama, etc.)
but in ourselves (he electorate).
Posted by Ol' Grey Ghost on 02/01/11 05:42 PM
George W. Bush, though from Texas, was a Yankee...
Click to view link
Reply from The Daily Bell
He is from an indeterminate region in our opinion.
Posted by WD on 02/01/11 04:48 PM
Flash! US presidents work for the banksters! Who knew?!
Kudos to the Bell for recognizing the significance of the internet to modern life. While the economic elite might have economic control of the world (except China) the advent of modern communications has delivered the means of political control to the cattle.
Galloping democracy, Batman! What a disaster! Expect sober moves to restrict modern communications (for our own good of course) in an effort to put a stop to elite loss of control. Wikileaks will not be tolerated. The only holdup is the development of a sellable rational for police state control that almost certainly will be the elite response bravely and dutifully carried out by the Hillary Clintons of the world. The good news is that in the process, the world is becoming aware that it's either the banksters or us.
Posted by Bob on 02/01/11 04:45 PM
Mubarak is an American and Zionist spy and a puppet. He is a thug and a traitor of his people.
He is responsible for endless suffering of Egyptian people. Now, he MUST pay for his treachery and his crimes against Egyptian people. He does not deserve any mercy. He must get "his own medicine".
Good luck to the Egyptian people in their struggle for freedom and democracy.
Posted by 10mmJack on 02/01/11 04:35 PM
In reference to Politicians, it is wise to pay little attention to what they SAY, and much attention to what they DO.
In reference to Bush, it is a fact that 911 and the Patriot Act both happened on his watch.
The pronouncements of the neo-con "wise men" do not change these facts. Nor do I think that the historians will.
Posted by Sovereignjim on 02/01/11 04:06 PM
The culture of Islam is constrained by the dogma of Islam as defined by the Koran, Hadith and Sharia. Nothing will change until that constraint is removed.
Posted by BILL WOLF on 02/01/11 03:52 PM
this seems like a blame Bush at any cost, and we (the democrats) win the election.
The report stated that the democrats in congress, (Frank, Pelosi, & Dodd) wanted everyone to have a house, and it did not matter that they #1 could not afford it, #2 they never taught them about the upkeep of a home.
Every state that is run by democrats is bought and paid for by the unions, Illinois, is a prime example, quinn made a deal before the elections to give the unions a 2% increase, so they backed him 100%, AFSME, AFL-CIO,etc, and now we get the honor to pay for those back room deals, with more taxes.
Maybe someday we will see marches on Springfield,& Chicago,Il against the likes of Emanuel, Quinn, Madigan, & Obama (who is part of this gang.
Maybe Iraq, & Afganistan, will be better off, but if they use our government crooks as a model, it will be the same, except instead of one crazy, they will have a congress like ours to rip them off.
Posted by Steve L. on 02/01/11 02:29 PM
That the Council on Foreign Relations spawns apologists for Bush's neo-con utopian-ish worldview just confirms that the objective is to strengthen the meme called "The Clash of Civilizations" with deft orchestration from the other side by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Strange bedfellows indeed, or are they two arms that extend from the same shrouded source, both of them fostering and benefitting from movement of the world into two warring camps: the Judeo-Christian and Islamic?
What is the benefit of the horrific consequences of such a clash? One could postulate a future where mankind would be so fed up with the destruction resulting from a world religious war that they would willingly embrace calls for a one-world religion, under the leadership of powerful global governance.
Only real truth brings with it the hope of freedom. Mr. Abrams is not, in my opinion, a purveyor of the light of real truth. The light of real understanding of current events must continue to shine, from this and other key internet sources, upon players with darker motives for Egypt and this whole region.
Reply from The Daily Bell
Boy, you nailed it.
Posted by Johan on 02/01/11 02:13 PM
President Bush was a puppet. I think he was totally unable to take any decisions about anything more important than what underwear to choose for a specific day. If you have seen the film 9/11 you just gotta love when he gets the news whilst in a primary school or similar. What does the man do? Pause for a second and then continue reading for the children. Incredible that he could stay in office for more than 2 weeks.
Want to move to Asia instead? – Click to view link
Posted by Steve L. on 02/01/11 01:51 PM
I do start to get concerned when the reportage covering this event features shiny happy people that hold open a vision of the universal brotherhood of man by just throwing off the oppressors among us. Bush contributed to this plastic perception of the future with his fundamental justification for going into Iraq, which was, essentially, to make the world safe for democracy (whatever "democracy" means).
Bush set the stage, but Obama appears to be following the script by engaging with Egypt in a manner that has spurred on the demonstrations. This is the same Obama who was virtually mum when a true grassroots uprising happened in Iran. What makes this "spontaneous" revolution different than the one that occurred in Iran that his response would be so diametrically opposite? Do we have yet another bi-polar president on our hands?
Shakespeare was perceptively correct: Bush was simply a player acting out his roles on the world stage. Obama is simply a continuation of this same tragic play. There must be a different performance, taking place in another theater, which offers better fare than this.
Posted by GWBramhall on 02/01/11 01:41 PM
Why is it so wrong to think that a working pro-west government
in Iraq, (whether or not it is achieved) would have a beneficial
effect on the troubled Middle East?
We saw a semi-uprising in Iran that was squelched by the wet blanket of the Obama administration, and now we see similar embers starting to ignite the dream of freedom among the Moslim nations.
Whether or not Bush's efforts in Iraq had any role in this movement (and we sincerely hope that the current uprisings will not turn into another takeover of government by radical Moslims as happened at in Iran during the Carter years) you cannot find fault with Bush's premise:
"Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom and never even to have a choice in the matter?"..
That is very profound statement that extends back to the very building blocks on which our country was founded.
Posted by HappyCamper on 02/01/11 12:29 PM
In the light of the ongoing events in the outskirts of empire a pretty interesting article from the PE-mouthpiece "Foreign Affairs" from almost four years ago:
"The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood " Summary: Even as Western commentators condemn the Muslim Brotherhood for its Islamism, radicals in the Middle East condemn it for rejecting jihad and embracing democracy. Such relative moderation offers Washington a notable opportunity for engagement -- as long as policymakers recognize the considerable variation between the group's different branches and tendencies"
Click to view link
Posted by Jim on 02/01/11 12:20 PM
Bush is NOT responsible for the MESS that ole barry and his lib dem cronies made! It was the DEM Congress that was in office during Bush's term that started this MESS and then barry turned up the flames and continues to do so with his Know Nothing Do Nothing, only TAX and TAX MORE MORONIC ideas!!