Is the Bush administration competent? There is enough information at hand on which to base an objective opinion.
On the eve of President Bush’s second term, the US economy has fewer jobs than when Bush was inaugurated four years ago.
During Bush’s first term, the US economy was unable to create jobs in both export and import-competitive sectors. The formerly powerful US jobs machine has been allowed to run down to the point that jobs can only be created in nontradable domestic services.
The service jobs that have been created are too few in number to offset the loss of manufacturing and knowledge jobs. Unemployed manufacturing workers, US software engineers, computer programers, and IT workers number in the hundreds of thousands.
During Bush’s first term, the value of the US dollar declined dramatically in relation to other traded currencies. The extraordinary diminution in the dollar’s exchange value threatens its role as the world’s reserve currency. If the dollar loses its role as reserve currency, there will be catastrophic consequences for US living standards and superpower status.
The decline in the dollar’s exchange value has failed to reduce the US trade deficit, because the Bush administration permits China to peg its currency to the dollar. As the dollar declines, China’s currency declines with it, thus maintaining China’s advantage in US markets while China gains greater advantage in all other markets. Because China pegs its currency to the dollar, the dollar’s decline has not reduced the advantage of outsourcing to China.
The ink in the federal budget is as red as that in the trade account. A country with a $440 billion budget deficit and a $600 billion trade deficit is not financially positioned to start a war in the Middle East. Instead of dealing with serious economic problems at home, Bush marched off to a gratuitous war.
Bush’s invasion of Iraq is one of the greatest strategic blunders in history. The Bush administration assumed that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would be a “cakewalk,” because the indigenous population would welcome and support Americans as liberators.
The reality is that all available US troops are tied down by a few thousand lightly armed insurgents who have the support of the Iraqi people. The US is so short of military manpower that it has been forced to call up the reserves and the National Guard, to keep troops deployed who have served their time in uniform, and, now, to call up men in their 50s who have not been in uniform for 20 years.
Bush’s invasion has turned not only Iraqis but all of the Middle East against the US. Where there were no terrorists and no support for terrorists, there are now tens of thousands of terrorists. America’s puppet regimes in Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are endangered by the anti-Americanism that is engulfing the Middle East.
Like Hitler at Stalingrad, Bush cannot recognize the danger. Unable to occupy Iraq, Bush plans to expand the war to Iran and Syria. The identical Bush officials who lied about Iraq having nuclear weapons or weapons programs now lie about Iran having nuclear weapons or weapons programs.
Immune to evidence, the Bush administration is delusional and capable of horrendous miscalculation. The flowers with which the US Department of Defense said our troops would be greeted in Iraq turned out to be bullets, rocket-propelled grenades, and roadside bombs.
On November 22, the US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, reported that its doctors have treated 20,802 US troops from Iraq. Few of the injured have been able to return to their units.
That is twice the casualty figure reported by the Pentagon and comprises 15% of the US army in Iraq. In exchange, since the invasion the US has killed some 100,000 Iraqi civilians and perhaps 2,000 insurgents.
The ultimate test of competence is ability to admit mistakes. This the Bush administration cannot do. Steadfastly denying any mistake, Bush is promoting those responsible for the Iraq carnage to higher office. Will four more years of Bush terminate America’s superpower status?
When Bush attacked Iraq, he jettisoned a half century of American foreign policy. He unilaterally threw diplomacy and allies out the door to invade a country that had done nothing to the US despite suffering a decade of American bombing and embargoes that, according to the UN, killed 500,000 Iraqi children.
Indiscriminate killing of Iraqi civilians and torture in US military prisons have destroyed the virtuous image that Bush claims for US aggression.
Not content to cause turmoil in the Middle East, the Bush administration is arrogantly and foolishly stirring the pot in Ukraine, interfering in an election in Russia’s sphere of influence. In just four years, Bush has created a new image of America as a reckless hypocrite that lectures others about democracy, while engaging in electoral fraud in Ohio and Florida and imposing a puppet government on Iraq at the point of bayonets.
PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review.