Former President George W. Bush, along with his avid supporters, has always maintained that history will remember him in a positive light for his efforts to spread democracy across the globe. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, George W. Bush had a popularity rating of 90 percent, the highest of any president, ever. Yet, by the end of his second term, George W. Bush’s approval rating had fallen to a ghastly 22 percent, the lowest rating to have been received since Gallup began polling presidential approval over 70 years ago.
I believe that the history books will write of a president who led us into a war with Iraq – for reasons right or wrong – that has developed into one of the worst-planned occupations in history. I believe that the history books will write of a president who, instead of reeling back government intrusions and shrinking the bureaucracy, enlarged the government’s presence and increased its dependency upon bureaucrats. I believe that the history books will tell of a president who transformed our nation from one of the most respected in the world into one whose citizens are occasionally embarassed to admit they are from.
In 2006, the majority of respondents in 18 of 21 countries surveyed held unfavorable opinions of Bush. They felt that the Bush administration had a negative impact on world security.
Recently, however, Bush stated, “I would like to be remembered as a guy who had a set of priorities, and was willing to live by those priorities. In terms of accomplishments, my biggest accomplishment is that I kept the country safe amidst a real danger.”
So what did Bush say was his biggest failure? According to the former president, his unsuccessful attempt to privatize social security in 2005, an idea that a recent Wall Street Journal poll found to be unpopular with nearly 70 percent of Americans, was his biggest failure.
Whether you agree or disagree with many of the decisions made by Bush during his reign, it is unlikely that any of us would feel that failing to privatize social security was his greatest failure.
To me, the greatest failure of the former President was the transformation of the United States of America into a nation looked upon as menacing, selfish and ignorant. It is not a failure that has an exact time and date, it is a failure that took eight years to execute and cannot be defined by any one action. The war in Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, the increasing national debt, the budget turned from surplus to deficit and many more, all played a part in this failure.
Henry Kissinger once said, “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” Today, in the era of globalization, this is an attitude we cannot afford to take. Cooperation with other nations can no longer be a means to an end. There are a plethora of problems across the globe that must be dealt with, but the United States cannot go at it alone.
History has always shown the rise and fall of great civilizations. No great power can last forever, and the United States is no exception. However, putting ourselves in a position where countries around the world fear, loathe or turn their noses up at us is not going to help the situation. Our fall from power does not have to be a collapse, it can be a gradual shift from dominance to co-dominance. As China closes in on the United States, we do not have to worry that a worthy enemy has been created. We can instead find that an incredible ally has come to fruition.
Is this wishful thinking? Perhaps. It is, though, the type of mindset we must have. No matter our intentions, our relationship with the international community will define our actions. If America is to once again become the shining symbol of democracy and freedom, the world must regnonize our nation as one that listens and considers, rather than making rash decisions contrary to the wishes of most other nations.
Take, for instance, our consistent refusal to participate in an international alliance against global warming. Refusing to sign the Kyoto protocol, which 187 nations have signed, strikes many as a cavalier attitude, especially when we consider that the United States is not a “green” nation by any standard.
There are a great deal of problems around the globe that the United States cannot afford to ingore. North Korea and Iran, legitimate threats to international security, cannot be tackled by the United States alone. Our military is stretched thin as it is, and with our national debt skyrocketing, we simply cannot afford another war. This means that we will need the support of the international community, not just a small coalition force. We have reached a time when, if we want other nations to act in accordance with our desires and lend us a hand when we need it, we must be viewed as a reciprocal partner and not as a commanding superpower.
Alexander Gura is a fourth-year political science major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.