8
Feb

The World George H. W. Bush Built

Written on February 8, 2013 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Americas, Democracy & Human Rights, Foreign Policy, Political Economy

By Robert Kaplan

Former President George H.W. Bush is aged and ailing. So it is precisely now that we need to voice our appreciation for him — one of America’s greatest one-term presidents, along with James K. Polk. Polk practically doubled the size of the continental United States between 1845 and 1849, becoming the individual embodiment of Manifest Destiny. Bush the elder, rather than make great things happen, prevented great tragedy from occurring. It was what did not happen between 1989 and 1993 in Europe, the Middle East and China that makes the elder Bush a far more significant president in geopolitical terms than, for example, Bill Clinton, who occupied the White House for twice as many years.

Bush was the last American aristocrat and veteran of World War II to serve as president. From a wealthy Connecticut family, educated at the finest private schools in New England, he enlisted in the Navy at 18 in 1942, and as a 20-year-old aviator was shot down over the Bonin Islands south of Japan in 1944. His life thereafter was often a register of both understatement and service.

Bush’s subdued, steely character is on full display in A World Transformed (1998). Notice several things about this, perhaps the finest presidential memoir since Ulysses S. Grant’s own Personal Memoirs published in 1885. Bush, rather than take all the credit for himself like other presidents, shares authorship with his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Nor is the book about his presidency per se, but about how he, Scowcroft and Secretary of the State James Baker III negotiated some of history’s most momentous crises. There is much else in his presidential term that Bush could have written about in order to get even or tell his side of the story, which he, nevertheless, ignores. He has decided to stay silent about so much in order to sublimate himself to the great historical and geopolitical events overseas with which he was forced to deal, even as he shares full credit with others. That is the measure of the man. Read more…

Robert D. Kaplan is Chief Geopolitical Analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, and author of the bestselling book The Revenge of Geography.

As published in www.stratfor.com on February 6, 2013.

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