If it’s change in US policy you want, Bush is your man.

If you want to know what the new President of the USA is going to do (whichever one wins), just look around you. Under the pressure of low opinion poll ratings, the logic of events and change of mood generated by Democrat successes in elections, the Bush Presidency has changed substantially.

Bush, you may member, came in like a lamb. This was a new Republican, a caring Republican, who could reach out to some Democrats. 9/11 changed all that. The Pentagon moved into a position of great influence over the Administration, which decided it had to pursue wars in countries associated with the terrorists. We moved from lamb to warrior. This year we see the US government shifting back to the arts of diplomacy. Just as Obama says he wants, the US is talking to its allies and working with them. The US is working through the French President over the vexed issue of Georgia, and stresses in every move and statement the need to work together with the Europeans. Just as Obama wants, the US is talking tough but not threatening military intervention. It has not ordered the carrier and surface fleet to concentrate near the Russian coast. The State department seems to be in charge and the Pentagon is taking a back seat. Similarly in the Middle East the talk is all of transferring power to locals in Iraq and Afghanistan, whilst warlike threats to Iran have been played down. The new mood is collaboration and diplomacy rather than leadership and military activity.

In other spheres too the Administration has moved in the direction of its critics. The President now says he thinks climate change is serious and needs multilateral action to tackle it. Maybe a new President would go further unilaterally than Bush will ever do, but if he tries to he will discover the adverse impact it will have on domestic politics. Americans like people the world over will resent having to pay higher taxes or follow more stringent regulations than their friends and competitors overseas, making it improbable a canny politician like Obama or Mc Cain will do much more than continue the shift in rhetoric that Bush has begun on this topic.

It is rare for a new government or even President to make a decisive shift which the wider governing establishment is not already making. I suspect that both Mc Cain and Obama, campaigning on change, will represent little shift from Bush Mark 3 in either foreign affairs or in domestic. Obama might be a higher tax and even higher spending President, though Bush the big spender will take some beating in that department. Mc Cain represents continuity in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in the end both Obama and Mc Cain would cut their commitments there, Obama more slowly than he says he would like and Mc Cain more quickly than he currently says is necessary.

Meanwhile, neither candidate has anything original or important to say on handling the Credit Crunch and the state of the world economy. The Fed will do what is has to do, with little change to current policy whoever becomes Treasury Secretary.

The more US politicians talk about change, the more you should expect continuity. The shift in policy has occurred already. Bush is now a multilateralist believing in diplomacy, after the difficulties he placed himself in through his two big Middle Eastern wars. We will now discover that diplomacy does not work well either, as the Russians continue their military presence in Georgia, destroying the Georgian military’s hardware whilst the West watches and condemns from a safe distance.

A sensible President would immediately set about remedying one great source of US weakness – its dependence on foreign oil.

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4 Comments

  1. Tony Makara
    Posted August 15, 2008 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Foreign policy quagmire aside, George Bush's greatest failing has been the fate of American jobs and the staggering trade deficits suffered because of his 'Commitment' to free-trade. This in turn, until recently, has forced the collapse in the Dollar, with the implications for inflation. For all the president's personal determination in foreign policy it seems Mr Bush is weak when standing up in defence of American jobs as the fiasco over steel tariffs proved. On economic matters president Bush buckles easily under pressure and resorts to panic, often backtracking on a previous stance. Its hard to know what to make of a president who can be so tough, and at the same time so weak.

  2. david
    Posted August 15, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I'm looking forward to President McCain and PM Cameron, judging by their bellicose statements re-Georgia, GI's and Tommies will soon be united in death, in the snows of Russia

    You know where you are with the Neo-Cons, dead!

    Reply: As a Conservative I am against a war over Georgia against Russia. I see no evidence that Mr Cameron wishes to fight one. It has been Labour who have taken our troops into dangerous battles.

  3. Susan
    Posted August 15, 2008 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Right! Who's going to fight Russia over South Ossetia – the EU? The EU has taken more to itself over the past few years and it seems we are all accountable to it. The EU is a government without mandate, without accountability and Russia knows this.

    What politicians call 'the EU' is in disarray (and long may it continue). If there is an intermediary role to be played then perhaps we can call on the UN? Or are they also willing to secede to 'Europe'?

    Cameron isn't a neo-con – he's too wishy-washy and goes wherever the winds from Europe blow.

    The United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have no Armed Forces in reserve – we can barely recompense those we have. For what it's worth I believe that Socialist governments regard our Armed Forces with contempt and this has been proved by deploying them to Iraq and Afghanistan without thought for the outcome.

  4. mikestallard
    Posted August 15, 2008 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Whenever I got robbed (often) in Spain, I could feel that something, which I did not understand, was making me suspicious. I felt the same when Dick Cheyney said that he was going into Iraq "because we can". It was a terrible mistake which tied the Allies' hands just when they needed to hit out at real villains.
    What with Iran, Pakistan (both nuclear), now Russia rocking the boat, it seems that "the pike in the European fish pond are preventing us becoming carp."
    Meanwhile, our own military is in full decay. That is why, we are drifting into disaster. In that way alone we are in a 1930s situation.
    The Americans, of course, have their own problems: but, surely, we ought not to be relying (again) on their generosity?
    I reckon we owe tham quite a lot of favours and that it is time now to form up some sort of army/navy/air reform that would allow us to fulfil the role that we have chosen to play as the world's assistant policeman.
    Meanwhile, our soldiery that are so very brilliant and who have such a superb record in history seem to be on drugs, on the dole, uneducated and uncherished.
    There is work to be done.
    It was the King of Camelot, Kennedy, the first Catholic President (?) who made the Americans fight Vietnam. So, watch out if Obama gets elected!

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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