Thursday, November 04, 2004

Arab News Op-Ed on Bush

Taheri is a good writer and I am pleasantly surprised that the Saudi Arab News published this. - EoZ
W2: But Who Is He?
Amir Taheri, Arab News

JEDDAH, 4 November 2004 — With President George W. Bush re-elected for a second term, the Middle East and the Muslim world beyond would do well to take a second look at the man who would lead the American “superpower” for four more years.

Who is George W. Bush? Is he a bumbling, low IQ rich kid, playing dummy for sinister ventriloquists? Or is he the populist demagogue in blue shirtsleeves out to sell the gullible Americans a bill of good?

If he is any of those things one must wonder how he has succeeded in persuading more than 50 million Americans to vote for him for a second time.

Is it not possible that he may be a traditional conviction politician of the kind that became endangered species after the cultural revolutions of the 1960s?

The first thing that we need to note is that Bush returns in a stronger position. He becomes the first candidate since 1988 to win the US presidency with a majority of the popular vote. He is also the fourth American president in more than half a century to win a second term. Also, he is the first US president since 1901 to enter a second term with his party in control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. He has won more votes than any president in all American history in an election that also saw the largest voters’ turnout ever in the US. This point merits attention because some people outside the US had assumed that Bush, having “stolen” the 2000 election, did not represent the American people.

Such assumptions enabled many people to present themselves as “anti-Bush” rather than plain anti-American. Now, however, it would not be easy to disguise anti-Americanism as anti-Bushism.

The second point to understand about Bush is that he is the first US president for half a century to be prepared to use American power, including military force, in a decisive way and, when necessary, regardless of what the global glitterati and the “international community” might think. The fact that he is able to do so is due to the 9/11 events that changed America forever.

Bush’s victory underlines another often overlooked fact.

The United States, far from being the hedonistic liberal society represented by Hollywood elite, is, in fact, a conservative traditional society. This enables Bush to assume a missionary posture that would be unthinkable in other democracies, especially in Europe.

Unlike European, and some American, politicians, who deal in shades of gray, Bush sees the world in black and white terms. When Bush says: You are either with us or against us, he really means it. He perceives of good and evil as physical realities, and not metaphysical abstractions, affecting the lives of both individuals and nations. French President Chirac likes to call Bush “a cowboy” while Japanese Premier Koizumi describes him as “Gary Cooper at High Noon”.

According to an old Arab saying a man is best known through his enemies rather than his friends. The logic of this is that a bad man might choose good friends. Well, here are some of Bush’s enemies: Mulla Omar, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and, oh yes, the speculator George Soros.

Some world leaders have tried to understand George W. Bush based on what they know of his father’s tenure as president. The older Bush, however, was a classical style balance of power player raised on a fare of Cold War politics. To him the highest call of politics was to defend and perpetuate the status quo. The younger Bush, on the other hand, is a change-maker, as evidenced in his domestic and foreign policies.

Love him or hate him, W will be around for four more years. And, unlike in his first term in which he was dogged by memories of the 2000 dispute in Florida and cast by his foes as a usurper, he is now the undoubted leader of his people.

In the past four years some countries and leaders adopted a waiting-it-out policy in the hope that Dubya will not get a second term. That policy is no longer a realistic option.

The Palestinians cannot wait four more years in the hope that George W. Bush’s successor will, once again, unroll the red carpet for Yasser Arafat to the White House. If they want to talk to Washington they have to come up with a new leadership.

The mullas cannot afford to wait four more years in the hope that Bush’s successor would swallow a nuclear-armed regime in Iran. Syria cannot ignore the latest Security Council resolution on Lebanon for four more years. Iraq’s enemies cannot hope to fight for four more years to prevent stabilization and demcoratization.

While the world must accommodate and work with W2, it is also important that George W. Bush, too, should review its policies and, above all, style, in the second term. Dubya could repeat Ronald Reagan’s experience who, despised by many in his first term, ended up by winning virtually everyone’s admiration in his final four years at the White House.

W2 would need to modify the needlessly abrasive style of sections of his administration. It needs to ruffle fewer fathers when there is no need to do so. Having shown that he is capable of waging war in military terms he now needs to also show that he can make more effective use of diplomacy, both official and public, and the magnetic pull of American culture and values. More urgently, Bush needs to explain the United States’ involvement in Iraq more convincingly to his own people. Many enemies of Iraq and the US have built their strategy on the hope that rising doubts about the necessity, not to say legitimacy, of the war might sap public support for the president’s ambitious dreams for a new Middle East.

The American people have decided to give George W. Bush the rare privilege of a second term. There is no reason why the rest of the world should not also do so.