FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Whitewashing George W. Bush

Photo by Sergio Vassio Photography | CC BY 2.0

The New York Times editorial  “Mr. Trump Squanders the World’s Trust” (Sept. 24, 2017) rightly underscores the reckless approach of President Donald Trump to world order.  However the editorial  errs in stating that President George W.  Bush did not act capriciously in abrogating the 1972 antiballistic missile (ABM) treaty with the Kremlin. Bush, the editorial asserts, “relied upon the treaty’s agreed-upon withdrawal clause and had a strategy for improving relations with Russia going forward.” Neither of these claims is accurate. Article XV of the treaty permitted either party to withdraw “if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. It shall give notice of its decision…six months prior to withdrawal….Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events the notifying Party regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.” The Bush administration never stated what extraordinary events related to the treaty jeopardized U.S. supreme interests.

Not only did the Bush administration violate the ABM treaty’s withdrawal clause, but the president’s unilateral action probably violated U.S. law.  Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and thirty-two other members of the House of Representatives filed suit against Bush, saying his action was unconstitutional. Citing Thomas Jefferson and over fifty precedents, the plaintiffs argued that since a treaty is part of the “supreme law of the land,” and must be made with the approval of Congress,  the president alone cannot unmake a treaty. A U.S. District Court upheld the executive branch and the six-month withdrawal period closed before Kucinich et al could take the matter to a higher court.

Though Bush perceived something positive in President Vladimir Putin’s eyes, U.S. policy tended to treat Russia like a weak and cornered bear, helping to bring on today’s animus. Subsequent U.S. efforts to erect antimissile defenses in Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and South Korea have aggravated U.S. relations with Beijing as well as Moscow. Republicans in Congress, still dreaming of Ronald Reagan’s astrodome ABM defense,  have usually supported not just research and development but also deployment of ABM defenses, regardless their cost, their unreliable performance, and the near impossibility of differentiating incoming warheads from decoys.

Bush, like Trump, seemed to relish withdrawing from international agreements (International Criminal Court, Kyoto Protocol, the Agreed Framework with North Korea). In most of these cases,  “America First” harmed vital U.S. interests as well as international cooperation.

The effect of the Times editorial is to whitewash an important feature of the George W. Bush approach to world affairs and to miss an opportunity to place the Trump presidency in historical perspective.  The reality is that Bush and Trump belong to a Republican leadership tradition of amoral and myopic politics that extends from Richard Nixon (sabotaging peace negotiations and extending the Indochina War) and Ronald Reagan (the Iran-Contra affair) to the present day. George H. W. Bush stood apart from this tradition, but his support for M. S. Gorbachev’s Soviet Union over the drive of Ukrainians, Estonians, and other Soviet minorities for national self-determination also belonged to a spirit of coldblooded Realpolitik.  The tradition was rationalized, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has put it, as a priority for U.S. “interests” over “values.”

More articles by:

Walter Clemens is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Boston University and Associate, Harvard University Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. He wrote Complexity Science and World Affairs (SUNY Press, 2013).

September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail