Tag Archives: george w bush

We live in the America Bush Jr created, a break with our past.

Summary: Dazzled by Nobel Peace Prize President Hope and Change, people (including historians and political scientists) and have only slowly recognized that Obama has largely continued the policies of his greater predecessor — a man who truly changed the course of American history. Until we understand our past we cannot effectively cope with our future.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Bush on Mt Rushmore

Passing years make it ever more clear that Bush Jr was one of the few transformative Presidents in US history, decisively changing the course of both domestic and foreign policy. Consider just a few of his major policy initiatives. The roots of these policy changes lie in the past, but he brought them to maturity.

  • His tax laws shifted the burden of Federal taxes from the rich to the middle-class (only slightly rolled back by Obama; State and local taxes were already regressive), continuing the work of our previous transformative President — Ronald Reagan.
  • He shifted the US from its post-WWII policy of containment and support for international law (largely a US-driven creation) to one of militaristic aggression — quite mad for a world in which new power centers are arising).
  • He decisively broke with the New Deal patterns, weakening the regulatory apparatus ability to interfere with corporate profits — and diminishing the influence of other interests, such as unions and environmentalists.
  • He decisively broke with  generations-old legal precedents (e.g., torture, preemptive war, indefinite detention without trial) or centuries-old (e.g., use of mercenaries).

As with many such key moments in time, historians only slowly recognized the change in course if America, and even more slowly explore the factors that made it happen. In the New York Review of Books Mark Danner continues his work reviewing books about this remarkable story (one reason the NYRB should be on everybody’s subscription list). Here we examine the person most responsible for crafting America’s new grand strategy. The origins of Bush’s domestic policies remain to be explored, on another day.

Excerpt from “In the Darkness of Dick Cheney

By Mark Danner
New York Review of Books, 6 March 2014 (red emphasis added)


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Let’s honor our generation’s greatest leader, one of the chief builders of a New America

Summary: Enough time has passed so that we can see in the 8 years of George W. Bush America changed to a degree seldom seen in our history, making him one of our few transformative Presidents. That many (perhaps most) of us do not like the specific changes he made does not matter. The 1% — his peers, in whose interest he ruled — gain much from the big steps under Bush away from the America-that-once-was towards a New America.  (This is the 2nd of 2 posts today.)

“The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist.
The next best is a leader who is loved and praised.
Next comes the one who is feared.
The worst one is the leader that is despised.

— Laozi, in the Tao Te Ching

Mt Rushmore as it will be, with President Bush

Mount Rushmore as it will be. One of these Presidents is not like the others.

George W. Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln

On the USS Abraham Lincoln, 1 May 2003 (AP/Damian Dovarganes)



  1. Our 7th transformative President
  2. National Security: triumph of the Deep State
  3. Undercutting the solvency of the government
  4. Etc, etc
  5. His buddy, Obama
  6. For More Information

(1)  Our 7th transformative President

Since his inauguration, following his award of the Nobel Peace Prize, many have called for Obama to be added to Mount Rushmore (or, realistically, said that he deserved to be there). That is obviously absurd. ObamaCare is almost his only substantial legislative accomplishment. He executed the end of the Iraq War, negotiated by President Bush Jr. Obama made some executive orders, which might prove significant (or not, or might be cancelled by a successor). He followed trends well-advanced at the State level expanding civil rights to gays. But his major accomplishments were overwhelmingly to continue, deepen, and expand the policies of his truly transformative predecessor. A man who deserves to be on Mount Rushmore: George W. Bush.

More accurately, a statue of Bush should begin a similar yet competing line of sculpture, since he undercut or outright reversed the accomplishments of Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln. The changes Bush made had precedents — as Hoover’s policies foreshadowed FDR’s, and Carter’s did Reagan’s. But like the bold measures of Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, FDR, and LBJ, Bush’s effects on America are of breadth and scale that defy easy description. We’re too close to see the full range of theses changes, to assess their relative importance, or do more than guess at their effects. But they’ve clearly set America on a new path.

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Proof pointing to the people guilty of weakening America

Summary: We, Americans, delight in creative explanations blaming others for our problems. “It’s not my fault” is our mantra. Here are two examples suggesting that we can find the guilty parties can be found in the mirror. We can do better.

Einstein about problems

He didn’t say it, but should have


In these pages I’ve attempted to convey some of the astonishing aspects of 21st century America. None are more astonishing than our disinterest in learning from our experiences (both Left and Right), and the parallel behavior of Left and Right (about which they’re oblivious). I’ve written scores of posts documenting these phenomena.

The conclusion drawn about these posts by many readers: they accurately describe foolish behavior of the other side (the bad guys), but say I show bias and politicization by pointing out similar behavior by the good guys (which is so obviously different). How sad to see such willful blindness. It’s one of the reasons I wonder about our capacity for self-government. The blind need guides. Perhaps that’s how the 1% see their relationship with us.

Here is an example for each.

Bush = Hitler

The Day of Action protest, 18 March 2006

(1) Bush is Hitler. So is Obama

Many at the Left said that President Bush Jr was like Hitler. Zomblog and Ringo’s Pictures have collected examples. Lied us into wars, illegal government surveillance, indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay without charges or trials. The Right laughed.

Now the Left applauds Obama, with his illegal surveillance programs, most aggressive-ever use of the Espionage Act of 1917. continued use of Guantanamo Bay, expanded assassination programs (including US citizens). Most of the same things they condemned Bush Jr for doing, plus more that Bush Jr did not dare do.

And now the Right condemns Obama as — Hitler. David Neiwert at Orcinus has a few examples. Google Images points to hundreds more.

This suggests that both Left and Right love authoritarians, so long as they are on the correct side of the political aisle. Both are oblivious to the similarity of their behaviors to the behavior of those they despise. No wonder our politics have become so dysfunctional.

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Iraq gives us another opportunity to confront our mistakes, and learn from them

Summary: The Iraq War begins a new phase, perhaps with US involvement. But we’ve not admitted, let along learned from, the massive institutional failures of the public policy machinery that produced it. Departments of Defense and State, the National Security Council, military, the President, NGOs, the press — all failed. Instead we focus on pretend solutions, and the Dreamland of what-ifs. Here is some material to help start the process. How well we learn might determine our results during the next generation.

“My first company commander told me that there’s two ways to learn: blunt trauma and mindless repetition.”
— Mike Few, from the comments

System Failure


  1. The big picture of US foreign interventions
  2. How we got into Iraq
  3. The long results of Iraq
  4. For More Information


(1) The big picture of US foreign interventions

Iraq delivers bloody lesson on blowback
Stephen Kinzer (Visiting Fellow, Boston U), Boston Globe, 22 June 2014


After many decades in the covert-action business, Americans have come to learn what “blowback” means. Often our foreign interventions produce quick victory. Then things go bad. Short-term success dissolves into long-term failure. Many of our interventions have not only thrown target countries into violent upheaval, but weakened our own security.

The recent explosion of militant power in Iraq is a new example of how serious this blowback can be.

… Bombing Khadafy out of power may have briefly felt good, but it has thrown Libya into chaos and strengthened some of North Africa’s most brutal terrorist armies.

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of one of the most ill-conceived of all American interventions. At the end of June 1954, the CIA deposed the elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz. “Operation Success,” as the Guatemala project was brightly code-named, did seem successful at the time. We deposed a leader we didn’t like and replaced him with one who would do our bidding. Yet within a few years, tensions set off by this intervention cast Guatemala into civil war. Hundreds of thousands of people, most of them Mayan peasants, died violently over the next 30 years. Today Guatemala is poor and backward, a weak state penetrated by drug gangs and plagued by unremitting violence.

Last year was the 60th anniversary of an equally disastrous intervention, the one that brought down Iran’s last democratic government in 1953. The CIA code-named it “Operation Ajax,” supposedly after the household cleanser. Its premise was that if we could return the shah to his Peacock Throne, he would wipe away Iranian nationalism and Iran would become pro-American forever. The opposite happened.

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Our rulers are skilled at running information operations (but less so at running America)

Summary:  Elections used to determine public policy in America.  No longer.  More broadly we can now see that information operations determine public policy in America, as our ruling elites realize that they need not engage an increasingly foolish and weak people in serious debate.  Instead factions among them compete using skillful propaganda — more often, active events to shape US public opinion.


  1. The old days
  2. Examples of information operations in America
  3. The next step:  anger (update)
  4. Ask the mineshaft!
  5. For more information

(1)  The old days

Candidates offered choices.  Sometimes the choices were fake.  FDR ran a budget-balancing fiscal conservative in 1932 and promised to keep us out of the war in 1940.  Nixon ran as a conservative in 1968, but was the 2nd or 3rd most liberal president of that century.

Although we’ve slowly evolved towards our new order, this new era began in 2008, where the election allowed us to choose between different candidates with almost identical policies.  That was not obvious to those that voted for Mr. Hope And Change.  Four years experience shows that Obama’s economic and national security policies are almost identical to Bush Jr’s.

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About the strategic significance of bin Laden’s execution, and the road not taken

Summary:  The capture and execution of bin Laden was a powerful act of grand strategy.  Did it advance or damage our national interests?  There was an alternative to his execution, another of the roads not taken by America since 9-11.  Bin Laden borrowed from the ending of Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor. We could have borrowed the ending from “The Sum of All Fears”.  This is a follow-up to A brief note about the death of bin Laden.


  1. Was bin Laden a high priority goal?
  2. Why does it matter?  Because strategy trumps tactics.
  3. The missed opportunity
  4. For more information

(1)  Was bin Laden a high priority goal?

Did we seek to capture/kill bin Laden?  Or was he more useful as an excuse for invading Afghanistan and Iraq?  There is evidence that regime change in the Middle East was the objective — and justice for bin Laden was secondary.  That was and should be primarily a decision about strategy not (as Machiavelli explained) a moral choice.  We can debate its effects another day.  Here’s some of the evidence.

(a)  Bush’s response to 9-11

As explained by the 9-11 Commission. From page 332, Chapter 10 — Wartime:

The State Department proposed delivering an ultimatum to the Taliban: produce Bin Ladin and his deputies and shut down al Qaeda camps within 24 to 48 hours, or the United States will use all necessary means to destroy the terrorist infrastructure. The State Department did not expect the Taliban to comply. Therefore, State and Defense would plan to build an international coalition to go into Afghanistan.

Both departments would consult with NATO and other allies and request intelligence, basing, and other support from countries, according to their capabilities and resources. Finally, the plan detailed a public U.S. stance: America would use all its resources to eliminate terrorism as a threat, punish those responsible for the 9/11 attacks, hold states and other actors responsible for providing sanctuary to terrorists, work with a coalition to eliminate terrorist groups and networks, and avoid malice toward any people, religion, or culture. (State Department memo, “Gameplan for Polmil Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan,” 14 Sept 2001)

President Bush recalled that he quickly realized that the administration would have to invade Afghanistan with ground troops.

(b)  Bush’s response to the Taliban’s offers

From “Bush rejects Taliban offer to surrender bin Laden“, The Independent, 15 October 2001 — Excerpt:

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Today’s reading: “Let Them Eat Dogma”

This excerpt is just an hors’ dourves.  I recommend reading the article in full, a valuable perspective on today’s events:  “Let Them Eat Dogma“, Chris Lehmann, The Baffler, 25 January 2010 — Excerpt:

Not so long ago, the lead theorists of America’s conservative revolution hymned it as a thing of unparalleled vitality and intellectual rigor. The Republicans ruled the policy world as “the party of ideas,” President George W. Bush famously pronounced, and all sorts of his erstwhile enthusiasts on the right, from tax-cutting think tank impresario Grover Norquist to Weekly Standard Warmonger-in-Chief William Kristol, lustily seconded the notion.

But then a funny thing happened: The conservative utopia of shrinking government, financial deregulation and upward income distribution became a hulking disaster. Major investment banks teetered on the brink of oblivion in the catastrophic Panic of 2008; pension funds spiraled into free-fall; the auto industry went on federal life support; and home foreclosure after home foreclosure has rendered many onetime boomtowns virtual diorama showcases for the wreckage bequeathed by alchemical works of market triumphalism, such as credit default swaps, mortgage-backed securities and the efficient market hypothesis.

And just like that, the idea-intoxicated American right vanished. As the federal government stirred out of its decades-long regulatory slumber and started to meet the financial calamity with urgently needed deficit spending, conservatives of the Gingrich vintage, who had long advertised their fealty to the high-tech, low-tax future, morphed seemingly overnight into the intellectual equivalent of historical re-enactors. Much as the Mormon faithful trek annually to the upstate New York festival in Palmyra to see their faith’s creation myth in a lavishly produced pageant, so have the conservative faithful repaired en masse back to the musty site of their modern genesis, the 1930s New Deal.

But this pageant of faith is a disorienting spectacle indeed. Instead of reckoning with a starkly transformed global economy, or the crucial ways in which their core precepts have been rudely upended, conservative thinkers are reviving 70-odd-year-old talking points from the Liberty League — the network of rock-ribbed Roosevelt haters who clustered in corporate boardrooms and Chamber of Commerce lobbies during the Thirties — thereby, one supposes, to finish the job their ancestors started: discrediting the New Deal and its legacy once and for all.

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