September 14, 2008

Finally – for a change – a few good words for bush!

As the final curtains on George Bush’s presidential stint begins, media space, blog space and myriad forms of literature are increasingly getting full of reflections from journalists, columnists, foreign policy experts, and leaders, on his tenure as a president. The matter of fact is that probably, there would not be any other American president who has received such blatant criticism on all aspects, and from all walks of life. So much so that it has been predicted by some publications and reports that Bush would go down in the pages of American history as the worst president ever. Some articles have gone to the extent of stating that President Bush would fare even worse than President Harding – the president during the Great Depression! But amidst all this, there have been a few articles that were carried out in Foreign Affairs, The Economist and some other globally recognised media houses, which had caught my attention. Not because of anything else, but on account of the perspective the columnists have put forth with respect to President Bush, which is not only unconventional, but also provides adequate food for thought for a world that has unconditionally termed Bush as a tormentor, a cowboy, a whacko, hegemonic et al... So let’s see whether at all we can give Bush some credit as he leaves us in peace!

Although there isn’t much doubt in the fact that the means adopted by Bush, particularly with respect to foreign policy, have been reckless and intimidating most of the time, this also can not be ruled out that it is the same Bush and his administration that has time and again been more than accommodating while taking some key policy decisions. Being an Indian, I cannot deny this fact that for all the criticism that emanates from us, he has always given this country (and China too) its due share of recognition. Despite all the opposition back home, Bush not only supported, but also made sure that outsourcing from USA to India continues unopposed. And his unabashed support for India’s due recognition in the field of nuclear energy goes on to reflect his unflinching determination. In the same manner, despite all the simmering tensions with China, Bush always knew that not giving China its due share of importance would always be counterproductive. The policies were indicative enough that his Administration always kept in mind the fact that China is too crucial for the wellbeing of the global economy for the US to antagonise the Chinese for some of their clearly aggressive acts (be it in the case of cross border acquisitions or unequivocal support in Africa). In fact, in spite of the problems in Tibet, about which the US has had serious reservations, Bush made himself look as much at ease during the Olympics as was possible, for he knew that the best way to improve China is to keep it engaged rather than isolate it.

Indubitably, in certain respects, the action of the Bush administration with respect to the war against terrorism has been utterly deplorable – and these aspects I have always personally highlighted very strongly and so have our group of publications. But then, the fact also cannot be denied that how much so ever unpardonable his actions were with respect to Afghanistan and Iraq, he did not allow another 9/11 to happen in the US. Add to this also the fact that he had personally championed the cause of the fight against terror and globalising that fight, taking it beyond the boundaries of America. The fact remains that if Bush had not done what he did to keep Al Qaeda and its fringe elements in leash, the world surely by now would have seen the worse, with the likes of Bin Laden dictating terms and killing with impunity. Bush also has been criticised much for his chauvinism against Iran and North Korea. Certainly, both these countries have as much a right to protect themselves as any other nation. But then, without the type of threat that emanated from the White House, neither would have North Korea agreed to disband its nuclear programmes – thereby bringing an end to the constant threat being given out from Pyongyang to Japan and South Korea – nor would have Iran allowed Israel to still stay in one piece. In the latter case, a nuclear attack by Iran on Israel would have surely brought the curtains down on the Middle East peace process.

And Bush surely has to be given his due credit for recognising the fact that Russia is still a force to reckon with, and that it cannot be treated like any other developing country. Going by past legacy, it was never easy for an American President to take such a stance. Another aspect, which has gone largely unnoticed, is that during his tenure, the aid to Africa has been more than tripled. From what was a shade below $1.5 billion in 2001, the direct aid for humanitarian development, though still a pittance, has been increased to more than $4 billion now.

The world, if not for anything else, would always remember Bush for his humility. He has always been as much at ease while being with the heads of States of some of the poorest nations of Africa, as he has been while chairing the meetings of G8. And surely, unlike his predecessors, Bush would be remembered for making the world stand a little on its own and depend a little lesser on US, as in his case, depending on the US has not so often been productive. Well, who knows this best other than Georgia!

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