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Friday, December 7, 2018

Bush's Leadership

Former Secretary of State James A. Baker eulogizes his old friend George H.W. Bush:
He was not considered a skilled speaker, but his deeds were quite eloquent. And he demonstrated their eloquence by carving them into the hard granite of history. They expressed his moral character, and they reflected his decency, his boundless kindness and consideration of others, his determination always to do the right thing, and always to do that to the very best of his ability. They testify to a life nobly lived. He possessed the classic virtues of our civilization and of his faith. The same virtues that express what is really best about this country. The same ideals were known to and shared by our founding fathers. George Bush was temperate in thought, in word, and in deed. He considered his choices and then he chose wisely.

The Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, less than one year into his presidency. It was a remarkable triumph for American foreign policy. As joyous east and west Germans danced on the remains of that hated wall, George Bush could have joined them metaphorically, and claimed victory for the west, for America, and frankly, for himself.

But he did not. He knew better. He understood that humility toward and not humiliation of a fallen adversary was the very best path to peace and reconciliation, and so he was able to unify Germany as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, not withstanding the initial reservations of France, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.

Thus, the Cold War ended, not with a bang but with the sound of a halliard rattling through a pulley over the Kremlin on a cool night in December 1991 as the flag of the Soviet Union was lowered for the very last time. Need we ask about George Bush's courage? During World War II, he risked his life in defense of something greater than himself. Decades later, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and began to brutalize Kuwaitis, George Bush never wavered.
Peggy Noonan at WSJ:
Here’s a theory: Bush’s achievement wasn’t seen for what it was, in part because America in those days was still going forward in the world with its old mystique. Its ultimate grace and constructiveness were a given. It had gallantly saved its friends in the First World War, and again in the Second; it had led the West’s resistance to communism. It was expected to do good.
Having won the war, of course it would win the peace. It seemed unremarkable that George Bush, and Brent Scowcroft, and a host of others did just that.
Bush was the last president to serve under—and add to—that American mystique. It has dissipated in the past few decades through pratfalls, errors and carelessness, with unwon wars and the economic crisis of 2008. The great foreign-affairs challenge now is to go forward in the world successfully while knowing the mystique has been lessened, and doing everything possible to win it back.