Monday, January 21, 2008

How Bush Can Change The World In 365 Days

Two stories examining what President Bush hopes to, and could realistically, achieve in his final year in office. It really all comes down to this, his last year in the White House. Will Bush be remembered for helping to plunge the world into the fourth great global conflict of the past century, or will his legacy become that of a visionary leader who defied much of the world, and most of his own people, to change the world for the better?

The first piece is from the Los Angeles Times (excerpts) :
One year from today, the next president of the United States will take the oath of office. If history is any guide, for the next 365 days, President Bush is likely to be one of the lamest ducks in history. Deeply unpopular, mired in the fifth year of war in Iraq and presiding over an economy slipping toward recession, he will be given no quarter by the Democratic-controlled Congress whose powers he has consistently sought to crimp. But history must not be permitted to circumscribe what Bush and Congress could yet accomplish. Both must reject the election-year paralysis that has become a self-defeating political tradition.

Lame-duck years typically feature torpor broken by last-ditch presidential foreign policy initiatives, usually unsuccessful. This year, the world faces problems far too serious to shelve for 12 months in deference to the American political calendar.

The seizure of highly enriched uranium in the Republic of Georgia last year proves once again that the most likely source for terrorists to obtain nuclear weapons materiel isn't Pakistan or Iran, at least not yet. It's Russia, which has secured only about half of its nuclear materiel. To its credit, the Bush administration has embraced the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to secure such materiel overseas, but at the current pace, it will take 15 years to complete the job. Experts say it can be done in four or five years. And it must.

Amazingly, there is no senior official in the U.S. whose sole responsibility is to prevent nuclear terrorism. Bureaucracies being what they are, it's essential that one person coordinate efforts and be accountable. Bush could appoint a White House deputy national security advisor for preventing nuclear terrorism. Best of all, he wouldn't even need congressional approval.

Bush could do his country and his legacy a big favor by closing the detention center that has become an international symbol of U.S. injustice. Terrorism suspects should be indicted and transferred to prisons such as Ft. Leavenworth, repatriated or released.
The second piece is from the Washington Post (excerpts) :

With one year left in the White House, Bush is trying to turn the normal plight of a lame-duck president to his advantage in an effort to salvage his foreign-policy legacy -- not only seeking an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal but also attempting to stabilize Iraq, isolate Iran and curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

...Bush's power to sway world events during his final months in the White House is dwindling, along with his political influence at home. While polite and warm to the president in their private meetings and phone conversations, the world's leaders are making their own calculations: Should they work with Bush, or are they better off waiting him out in favor of an unknown president in 2009?

Those deliberations differ from country to country and hinge on who foreign officials believe might be the next occupant of the Oval Office. Some leaders -- such as Olmert, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- appear to have strong political incentives to work with Bush during his final year. Others, in places such as North Korea or Iran, or even in friendly nations interested in progress on global warming, may be playing for time, hopeful that a new U.S. president might be more responsive to their concerns.

....Bush and his advisers left the region believing they made some headway in convincing officials that the president will use his final year in office to make progress on key issues such as Iraq and Iran. With a new administration likely to accelerate a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, this might be the last year for the Maliki government to push toward political reconciliation with U.S. protection.

While heartened by the administration's new vigor in trying to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, others in the region believe the new engagement from the administration -- after seven years of allowing problems to fester, in their view -- is a case of too little, too late.

Bush spent much of his Middle East trip trying to address such perceptions, acknowledging them in an interview in Riyadh last week with some of the reporters who accompanied him. "After years of disappointment," he said, "those of us directly involved in the process have a lot of work to try to instill confidence in the people."
But however Bush changes the world the world for the better, or for the worst, most Americans will remember him for what he did to his own country during his time in the White House, and how he handled the great dramas of the past decade : 9/11, the Iraq War, the 'War on Terror', Hurricane Katrina and the immolation of the American economy.

Bush is likely to leave the White House, one year from now, as one of the most unpopular and controversial American presidents in history.

One year is not enough to repair the damage of his NeoCon-infected vision for changing the world, or to renew the faith of Americans who feel so utterly betrayed by the Iraq War and the endless lies and controversies that have poisoned and fouled his eight years in the White House.