Thursday, August 21, 2008

Footnote

One important thing glossed over in this extensive examination of the Bush administrations' foreign policy reversals is that, even when the administration changed policies for the better, they continued to cultivate a counterproductive rhetoric in the national debate.

Not that I expected retractions or admissions that failed policies had been abandoned, that new leaders and directions were given opportunity to bear fruit; I know better than to expect such from politicians. But maybe I expected a little more explanation by the folks in charge and a little more introspection from their mouthpieces. What we got instead was this insanity producing narrative of catch phrases that took credit for policy changes without acknowledging that there had been a need to change the policy, hinting that the forced change had been the plan all along and that the world exists in a vaccum.

(Of course, this was a masterful use of marketing, as you could literally see liberals and progressive come unhinged while administration members and supporters talked in such ways. This, when coupled with video feed or evidence of said liberal or progressive coming unhinged, was then marketed back to the population as a whole as part of the "unhinged liberal" sales pitch used so brilliantly by the right in recent years...)

One of the last notes Zakaria makes (on page 4) is that, as both presidential candidates work to seperate themselves from Bush policies, whoever wins should pay close attention to what policies have evolved to work in the last years of this administration. It is the cautionary tale of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, reinventing the wheel or - most tellingly - doing exactly what Bush did with what was working for the Clinton administration's last years.

On the political note, I agree. One of the hallmarks of US policy during the Cold War was the consistency from one administration to the next. There seemed a lot more "realpolitik" consensus on many issues involving foreign policy - even on decisions that came back to haunt us. Shame we can't seem to keep what works and work on what needs fixin'.

But one thing to consider as well is that the candidates are both trying to fight the Bush administration of 2001 - 2003 because the administration still publicly acts like it is still 2001 - 2003.


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