Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bush is a dog that barks but can no longer bite

Helmut Schmidt, who as German Chancellor in the late 1970’s to early 1980’s initiated the U.S. missile buildup to counter the threat from the Soviet Union, recently stated that he believed that Russia now posed far less a threat to world peace than the United States. He made clear he did not see Russian President Vladimir Putin as a flawless democrat, but did consider him an "enlightened potentate."

Der Spiegel’s Washington correspondent, Gabor Steingart, challenges Schmidt’s conclusions. In an article, “How Dangerous is America?,” he sees Russia as adrift with some very serious problems that can spill over its borders. On the other hand he believes the recklessness of the Bush presidency is being increasingly held in check by democratic institutions not present in Russia.

Here is what he has to say about the United States:
… the loud and sometimes insufferable America of President George W. Bush is already significantly less dangerous than it was when he came into office. Today Bush is a dog that barks but can no longer bite. He is limited by four factors, which, in their absoluteness, are foreign to Putin: his own people, the US Constitution, the independent judiciary and the free press. All four factors lend legitimacy to the United States -- and withdraw it again. This is precisely the beauty of a democracy: the people have the first and last word.

…The superpower is experiencing a difficult phase not unlike the period in the early 1970s, when the Vietnam War was approaching its inglorious end. The country senses that no one is impressed by its tough talk on the so-called "clash of civilizations" and the "war on terror," as long as success remains elusive on the real war fronts. The Taliban in Afghanistan are confident again, thriving within the population like fish in water. Iraq remains a constant challenge, refusing to be pacified. The United States has isolated itself internationally. No one on the planet, not even in its remotest corners, is currently sending Bush the message that the world wants more of America.

The domestic mood is by no means gung-ho when it comes to the war in Iraq. The Americans are defiant. They don't want to lose the war, and yet their support for it is waning. The strategy of aggression, of launching attacks based on suspicion alone and the doctrine of the preemptive strike are now seen as military and political failures.

Bush would be truly dangerous if he could do as he wished. But he can't. This is precisely the difference. In a democracy, the will of the individual is answerable to the people, and not the other way around. I, in any case, prefer narrow-minded democrats over enlightened potentates any day. Of course, enlightened democrats -- the kind of person Helmut Schmidt once was and will hopefully remain for a long time -- are the best thing for the country.


Anonymous said...

Bush would be truly dangerous if he could do as he wished. But he can't.

Another reporter with his head up his ass.
Who is going to stop Bush from doing what he pleases for the next year? The Democrats? They can't even override the veto of a 28% President.

Unknown said...

Sounds like Helmut Schmidt is becoming Germany's Jimmy Carter. Bush dangerous? No, it is the fools who, like Chamberlain in the past, pretend that no one has bad intentions and designs on remaking civilization according to their own plans. What did Bush do? Instead of sticking his head in the sand like the darling of Europe, Bill Clinton, he actually took some action that required a price. Lest he take a hit in the polls, Clinton avoided any serious action against Osama and Saddam. A few cruise missiles with no chance of success, but good PR. Clinton talked a good game. His policy was removal of Saddam and capture of Osama. His action was status quo. In sacrificing American soldiers, which is one of the burdens required of an American president, Bush sacrificed his popularity and the good will of many "allies." He took out the terrorist bases in Afghanistan and removed a cruel and ruthless regime that had imposed itself on the Afghans. In Iraq, he removed a cruel and ruthless regime that killed hundreds of thousands of its own people. He, through our troops, is now fighting Al Qeada in Iraq, not in the US, not in Germany, not in Europe. Were innocents killed as a result of the invasion? Yes. Would innocents have been killed if no invasion occurred? Yes. The difference now is that there is hope in Iraq that innocents won't be killed every day in "peacetime." There is the chance for a reward for all of the blood that was shed.
Did Bush invade an innocent country and exploit its resources and oppress its people? No, just the opposite. He invaded a country that had raped and pillaged its neighbors and killed its own citizens by the warehouseful. Has he exploited Iraq's resources, oil, in particular ? No. His administration has attempted, against the terrorist acts, to restore Iraq's oil production so they can realize the benefit of its sale. Has he oppressed the people? No. He relieved them of an oppressor and is trying to help them govern themselves. Self-government was tried in Russia, but now it seems they are going back to a dictatorial form of government under the "enlightened" potentate. Nevertheless, in Iraq, the feuding factions are beginning to figure it out and get together because George Bush showed some leadership. He refused to give in to the popular notion of withdrawing troops because that is the popular thing to do according to the media, the leftists, and Jimmy Carters of the world.

Bush has received much criticism for not properly preparing for the invasion aftermath, the war continued, so to speak. He obviously made a lot of mistakes. But has there ever been a perfect war? Could Bush have used a little help from our strongest allies, such as France and Germany? Sure, some help might have made the transition from Saddam to democracy a lot smoother. But no, our friends in Europe and the left at home have been wringing their hands and bewailing the "dangerous" Bush because he dares put words into action and actually does something to stop terrorism and the continued oppression of millions of people. What did Germany, France, and Russia lose from the invasion of Iraq? Some lucrative illegal contracts with Saddam. What else?
Because of the attitude that taking action is dangerous, nothing substantive can be done about other tragic places, like Darfur, where people are being oppressed, slaughtered and persecuted. The Jimmy Carters of the world encourage and snuggle with cruel and oppressive dictators while leaders like Bush, Thatcher, and Reagan actually try to free people from those same oppressors. Yet, the press and left continue trying to tie the hands that would free the oppressed.

The author of the article is correct. Bush is constrained by the constitution. He, like Clinton before him, can only serve two terms. His successor will take a different course and whatever Bush did and will do in the meantime will be directed at stopping terrorism. (It is interesting how the ultimate sponsor of terror, Iran, now has American troops to its north and west. A firm stand by Europe in support of the US could help prevent a war there despite the Iranian president's desire for one.) I hope that the next president has enough sense to face up to threats and not ignore them until it is too late.

Bush is not articulate. He is downright embarrassing when speaking. He makes plenty of mistakes, but he has fortitude and courage and is concerned more about his country than his own reputation. Dangerous? Not unless you are a terrorist.