Last week we spoke of Obama’s entry in to the White House. In this piece let us talk of his predecessor. How did he (Bush) fare as a world leader? Most dismissed him as a blubbering, arrogant leader who believed that what can’t be solved by force needs more force.
Let us see how he handled the three big crises that he faced and come to our verdict.
First 9-11. 9-11 shook and bled America. It required a strong counter response. Bush gave it to the world by launching a blitzkrieg against Afghanistan. His (in)famous words we will smoke them out have become a part of folk lore.
In his tenure America had a president whose table carried the plaque Speak softly and carry a big stick. He had a Secretary of State (Donald Rumsfield) on whose table sat a plaque which said, You can get more done with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone ( This quote comes from Al Capone, the gang lord). Bush gathered more like him around him. The world suddenly found that it is being lead by statesmen who believe in mafia philosophy. Belligerence got carried too far. And Iraq happened.
The intrusion into Iraq was avoidable. The international community was not in agreement. Putin revived his ICBM programme soon after Iraq as he was the first to understand that America is back- stronger than ever- to its might-is-right-philosophy and he knew that when one nation starts thinking like that the others should shore up their defences, else they won’t count anymore.
Then came Katrina. Bush didn’t catch the signal which Katrina carried. Katrina told those who were willing to listen in the developed world, that minimum development standards for all in the world are a must.
A few years back some leaders in the global community set up what is known as Minimum Development Goals (MDG) on reducing poverty, reducing infant mortality, establishing universal primary education, basic nutrition etc. When MDGs were first made known many rich countries disowned these as they felt these are goals for the poor countries to reach on their own. The rich nations had well crossed these goals decades ago. Why should they bother with these goals?
But this was ten years back. Natural disasters, sinister climatic changes, growing militant fundamentalism among the deprived communities, dangerous new viruses which don’t care for national borders woke up many leaders of rich nations to the fact that they can’t feast for long if others are starving. Nature retaliates to correct gross inequity. In the last few years, many European leaders have understood this. But Bush didn’t. Katrina should have made him more inclusive.
What Katrina could not do perhaps Obama did. Obamamania would have told Bush that despite the courage he displayed in standing up for his country he could not win the hearts of Americans. On the contrary his unbridled aggression made America lose its moral superiority.
It is perhaps for this reason that Bush is handling his third crisis- the financial meltdown of 2008- more inclusively. By holding the G20 summit he has acknowledged that countries other than the G8 also matter and they should be given their due. It is just a little and quite late. But it is better late than never. As his innings draws to a close it does seem that a new balance might be just entering his style. And if that is so I would give him six out of ten for his tenure. How would you rate him?