Saturday, December 27, 2008

George W Bush: winning the war on terror

Europe's political elites are no doubt salivating at the prospect of George W. Bush departing the White House in January.
George W Bush
Criticism of George W Bush is often driven by a dislike of his personality, not analysis of his achievements Photo: EPA

On much of the world stage, President Bush has been widely reviled as one of the worst U.S. leaders of modern times, and it is hard to think of an American president who has received a worse press since Richard Nixon.

To his critics, who are legion on both sides of the Atlantic, the war in Iraq has been a monumental disaster, at a cost of more than 4,000 American lives and at least $500 billion. They see the war on terror, with the notorious Guantanamo prison camp as its symbol, as a catalyst for radicalizing tens of millions of Muslims that has made the United States a pariah in the Middle East.

The war in Afghanistan, they argue, is going badly in the face of a resurgent Taliban, the cost of Washington pouring most of its resources into Iraq. Bush, the theory goes, failed to keep his eye on the ball, weakening the fight against al-Qaeda through his supposed obsession with Iraq. He is also accused of undermining America's standing in the world, adopting a unilateralist foreign policy and refusing to work with its Allies.

Some of the criticism of Bush's foreign policy is fair. The early stages of the occupation of Iraq were poorly handled and there was a distinct lack of post-war planning. America's public diplomacy efforts have been poor or even non-existent, with little serious attempt to combat the stunning rise of anti-Americanism. More recently, Washington's failure to stand up more aggressively to Moscow after its invasion of Georgia projected weakness and indecision.

Much of the condemnation of his policies though is driven by a venomous hatred of Bush's personality and leadership style, rather than an objective assessment of his achievements. Ten or twenty years from now, historians will view Bush's actions on the world stage in a more favourable light. America's 43rd president did after all directly liberate more people (over 60 million) from tyranny than any leader since Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Widely seen as his biggest foreign policy error, the decision to invade Iraq could ultimately prove to have been a masterstroke. Today the world is witnessing the birth of the first truly democratic state in the Middle East outside of Israel. Over eight million voted in Iraq's parliamentary elections in 2005, and the region's first free Muslim society may become a reality. Iraq might not be Turkey, but it is a powerful demonstration that freedom can flourish in the embers of the most brutal and barbaric of dictatorships.

The success of the surge in Iraq will go down in history as a turning point in the war against al-Qaeda. The stunning defeat of the insurgency was a major blow both militarily and psychologically for the terror network. The West's most feared enemy suffered thousands of losses in Iraq, including many of their most senior commanders, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Abu Qaswarah. It was the most successful counter-insurgency operation anywhere in the world since the British victory in Malaya in 1960.

The broader war against Islamist terrorism has also been a success. There has not been a single terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, and for all the global condemnation of pre-emptive strikes, Guantanamo and the use of rendition against terror suspects, the fact remains that Bush's aggressive strategy actually worked.

Significantly, there have been no successful terrorist attacks in Europe since the July 2005 London bombings, in large part due to the cooperation between U.S., British and other Western intelligence agencies. American intelligence has proved vital in helping prevent an array of planned terror attacks in the UK, a striking demonstration of the value to Britain of its close ties to Washington.

President Bush, in contrast to both his father, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton before him, had a crystal clear, instinctive understanding of the importance of the Anglo-American Special Relationship. Tony Blair may well have been labeled Bush's "poodle" over his support for the war in Iraq, but his partnership with George W. Bush marked the high point of the Anglo-American alliance since the heady days of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

The decision by Bush, with Blair's support, to sweep the Taliban out of Afghanistan was a brilliant move, one that not all U.S. presidents would have taken. A weaker leader would have gone to the United Nations Security Council and sought a negotiated settlement with Kabul. It was a risky gambit that was vindicated by a stunning military victory in the space of a month, with a small number of U.S. ground forces involved.

Bush also made a firm commitment to defending the fledgling Afghan government, and succeeded in building a 41-nation NATO-led coalition. The notion that the resurgence of the Taliban is America's failure is nonsense. The U.S. has more than 30,000 troops in the country under U.S. or NATO command, making up over half of all Allied forces there. Continental European allies have simply failed to step up to the plate with more troops, with almost the entire war-fighting burden placed on the U.S., UK and other English-speaking countries. Afghanistan is not a failure of American leadership, it is a damning indictment of an increasingly pacifist Europe that simply will not fight.

President Bush also recognized the importance of re-shaping the NATO alliance for the 21st Century, backing an ambitious program of NATO expansion, culminating in the addition of seven new members in 2004. He also had the foresight to support the development of a missile defence system in Europe, successfully negotiating deals with both Poland and the Czech Republic. Bush was right to back the eventual inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine in NATO, and both would be well on their way to membership today were it not for the feckless decision of France and Germany to side with Russia in blocking their path to entry.

Bush began his presidency primarily as a domestic leader. He ends it as a war leader who has left a huge imprint internationally. His greatest legacy, the global war against Islamist terror, has left the world a safer place, and his decision to project global power and military might against America's enemies has made it harder for Islamist terrorists to strike against London, Paris or Berlin.

Bush's decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power will make it less likely that rogue regimes, Iran and North Korea included, will seek to militarily challenge American power. The memory of the invasion of Iraq and the unequivocal message that sent is by far the most effective deterrent to Tehran developing a nuclear weapon.

If superpowers do not demonstrate an ability and a willingness to wield power (as Britain did on numerous occasions at the height of the Empire) their hegemony will be increasingly challenged. President Bush exercised U.S. military power to stunning effect in both Iraq and Afghanistan, an important reminder that America was still a force to be reckoned with after the 1990s humiliation of Somalia and the half-hearted missile strikes against Bin Laden in Sudan. In an age of growing threats and challenges, the projection of hard power matters, and America's next president would be wise to take heed.

Nile Gardiner is Director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Person of the Year

TIME Magazine in its usual style, has pronounced Mr. Obama this year's "Person of the Year." Going so far as to chart how Obama is connected to every previous person of the year, TIME haughtily presents the president-elect as the American messiah. While Mr. Obama's victory is certainly historical, it was not his victory alone. Barrack alone did not win the elections, nor is he the one who has changed America's (perceived) past and present status as a racist nation.

The American people are the ones who deserve credit, they are the ones who turned out to vote and it was because of them that Obama won. While he certainly is now tasked with the responsibility of fixing this nations economic crisis (amongst others), Obama has not yet been tested. In fact, Barrack Obama has not made any major impact on policy during his obviously lengthy career in politics.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Bush Shoe Attack: A Sign of Hope

By Roger L. Simon

As the world knows now, a particularly juvenile Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at George Bush in Baghdad Sunday. Bush characteristically made light of the situation. If there's one thing many can agree on about the president, it's that he doesn't take insults too personally, at least in public. Good thing too, considering all the abuse that has been heaped on him in recent years. I can't imagine I would have behaved the same way. With my temper, I would probably have picked up
the shoe and gone after the dopey journo myself.

Well, maybe I wouldn't have. The clod probably did Bush a favor, making the president look good. And Bush could use it, because I can't think of a public figure in my lifetime who has been so reviled except Nixon. And Bush never did anything provably wrong. He didn't cover up an illegal break-in, try to sell a Senate seat or even have oral sex with an intern in the White House (and then claim it wasn't sex). He just did his job to the best of his ability.

Oh, yes, I forgot, the WMDs. "Bush lied and people died." Or did he? If he did, then so did those many dozens of Congress people and foreign leaders working off the same information - not to mention that no one has ever proven those WMDs weren't there. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as the famous "argument from ignorance" goes.

But more importantly and more apposite to today's event was that other, oft forgotten, reason Bush went to war in Iraq - that the only way to bring true peace to the Middle East would be through democracy. He wanted to spread the democratic system preemptively. A lot of people have sneered at that idea lately, but while they were sneering Iraq has inched forward toward a democracy. It's even turning into a (somewhat) decent place to live. That buffoon-like shoe shucker - his name is Muntazer al-Zaidi from Al-Baghdadia channel which broadcasts from Cairo - proved it. No matter what happens to al-Zaidi now (and it won't be much if anything), it will be nothing like what would have happened to him if he had hurled a shoe at the president during the previous Iraqi administration of Saddam Hussein. As we all know, in that case, he would either have had his tongue and scrotum cut out or both, if he would have survived at all.

And that's the point - something good has happened. Something very good.

What isn't so clear, yet, is how history will treat George Bush. I have a suspicion it's going to be better than a lot of people now suspect - or are willing to admit.

Roger L. Simon is an award-winning mystery author, blogger and screenwriter living in California. He is currently the CEO of Pajamas Media.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

This Christmas Give The Gift of Death

This year you can give that special someone the gift they've just been ready to kill for. What could be better than seeing the beaming face of a happy almost-but-not-quite mom who has just freed herself from the awful burden of caring for another human being? Because I am so sure that the gift certificates that Planned Parenthood chapters in Indiana (and coming soon to a store near you: IL, NY, AK, and MI) are offering this season will bring insurmountable joy and holiday cheer to so many caring people, I strongly suggest that these delightful little gifts be purchased for all your friends and family.

Seriously though, what is wrong with these people!? Abortion, while sometimes necessary should not be thought of as a gift! It is true that there are other uses for these gift certificates aside from abortion, and to be sure, advocates of the certificates will use that as an argument in their defense. However, at a time when the moral ramifications of abortion are still under heavy debate (a debate that perhaps could be solved simply by turning to religion for the answer - though not guns in this case, sorry Obama) it would seem unwise and perhaps overtly political to advertise the use of abortion as a gift.

In such situations where an abortion is warranted it is important for the mother to understand that what she is doing is in fact okay. But it is okay - not because a business or lobbying group tells her it is - it is okay because she must act in such a fashion that protects her own health. (There are other situations, most notably rape where a valid argument could be made for abortion, however that brings about a whole new discussion that I won't get into here.) The use of abortion to simply avoid responsibility should NOT be allowed.

One final note: "pro-choice" advocates like to argue that because it is the woman's body it is her decision to make. What about the father? Does he have any say? After all, without him the mother would not even be dealing with the issue.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Military At Home

According to the Washington Post, "The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe."

The ACLU and libertarian groups argue that this plan "threatens to...undermine the Posse Comitatus Act," and in fact they have a valid point. If, that is, these 20,000 troops are being deployed to make house arrests, serve warrants, and deliver speeding tickets. Title 10 of the United States Code states that:
The Secretary of Defense shall prescribe such regulations as may
be necessary to ensure that any activity (including the provision of
any equipment or facility or the assignment or detail of any personnel)
under this chapter does not include or permit direct participation by a
member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps in a search,
seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in such activity by such member is otherwise authorized by law

As such, it would appear that the Pentagon's action to create a domestic terrorist response force is lawful so long as the soldiers are assisting in and not actually executing the duties of local law enforcement. While that knowledge may not reassure the concerned citizens fearful, no doubt, of having their homes invaded by black-clad special forces wielding M16s in the dead of night, the recognition that the best trained military in the world is going to be prepared to assist in the event of a major nuclear or biological attack - which is predicted by a bipartisan commission to happen before 2013 - should comfort the rest of us.