January 13, 2004

Origins of Bush Mideast Policy

I have reached page 72 of The Price of Loyalty, and for the first time in the book George W. Bush expresses a substantive opinion about something:

p. 71 ff: President Bush echoed this view: "We're gong to correct the imbalances of the previous administration on the Mideast conflict. We're going to tilt it back toward Israel. And we're going to be consistent. Clinton overreached, and it all fell apart. That's why we're in trouble," Bush said. "If the two sides don't want peace, there's no way we can force them." Then the President halted. "Anybody here ever met [Ariel] Sharon?" After a moment, Powell sort of raised his hand. Yes, he had. "I'm not going to go by past reputations when it comes to Sharon," Bush said. "I'm going to take him at face value. We'll work out a relationship based on how things go." He'd met Sharon briefly, Bush said, when they had flown over Israel in a helicopter on a visit in December 1998. "Just saw him that one time. We flew over the Palestinian camps," Bush said sourly. "Looked real bad down there. I don't see much we can do over there at this point. I think it's time to pull out of that situation."

And that was it, according to O'Neill and several other people in the room. The Arab-Israeli conflict was a mess, and the United States would disengage. The combatants would have to work it out on their own. Powell said such a move might be hasty. He remarked on the violence in the West Bank and Gaza and on its roots. He stressed that a pullback by the United States would unleash Sharon and the Israeli army. "The consequences of that could be dire," he said, "especially for the Palestinians."

Bush shrugged. "Maybe that's the best way to get things back in balance." Powell looked startled. "Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things," Bush said...

It is worthy noting that this is the only moment recounted in the entire book in which George W. Bush makes a substantive argument for a policy.


Ron Suskind (2003), The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill (New York: Simon and Schuster: 0743255453).

Posted by DeLong at January 13, 2004 02:54 PM | TrackBack

Comments

testing

Posted by: Masaccio on January 13, 2004 03:39 PM

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"It is worthy noting that this is the only moment recounted in the entire book in which George W. Bush makes a substantive argument for a policy."

Don't you mean "the only moment recounted in the 72 pages I've read"?

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on January 13, 2004 04:27 PM

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"It is worthy noting that this is the only moment recounted in the entire book in which George W. Bush makes a substantive argument for a policy."

Don't you mean "the only moment recounted in the 72 pages I've read"?

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on January 13, 2004 04:27 PM

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No.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on January 13, 2004 04:32 PM

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Ah. Well, it's not clear from the context that you would know this is the case. I believe you, though.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on January 13, 2004 04:39 PM

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If one listens to Jody Powell, one notices that Carter's success was based on following what Nixon and Ford were doing and simply follow their progress to the end. Alas, Reagan did not follow through in kind. So we lost the momentum. Maybe Reagan got it going again and Bush41 followed through which helped Clinton achieve some success by following on the progress made by others. Powell seemed to understand this but Bush43 only understood "Anything But Clinton". So we are back to stage 1 despite all the hard work of previous Administrations. And many lives are being lost on the Temple of Arrogance.

Posted by: Harold McClure on January 13, 2004 04:47 PM

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Reading this book is a wrenching experience for anyone who cares about his or her country.

Posted by: George Grantham on January 13, 2004 05:54 PM

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--!

I wonder why the JWR people are going to make of this; I've been telling a small group of believers that W. Bush was likely to abandon Israel, and there it is in his own words.

Posted by: Randolph Fritz on January 13, 2004 06:02 PM

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To which I'll add that, if Israel survives at all, an Arab-Israeli alliance seems to me inevitable. The USA is likely to long regret W. Bush's hasty and ill-thought policy.

Posted by: Randolph Fritz on January 13, 2004 07:27 PM

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Like a gorilla in a china shop... To me, it feels like Sharon knows this is a HISTORIC opportunity for his brand of zionism. That's why he is trying to push for defining the ultimate border is spite of opposition from his own coalition. He knows that, he, and perhaps Israel, will never get a chance to grab as much land as under this president. And we're expected to believe this is going to help with terrorism, and spread democracy and peace throughout the Middle East. It's like saying that if the civil liberty movement had been suppressed, "we wouldn't have had all these problems." Everyone knows America had to evolve, in spite of the fact that the civil liberty and affiliate movements had their own excesses. (And no, I am not trying to make an exact moral analogy, just to illustrate how one can go wrong in opposing a legitimate political claim for the wrongs of a few extremists, call them the Black Panthers if you will, or whomever....)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 13, 2004 07:39 PM

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"To which I'll add that, if Israel survives at all, an Arab-Israeli alliance seems to me inevitable. The USA is likely to long regret W. Bush's hasty and ill-thought policy."

Interestingly, that's what I have heard some Arabs (few admitedly, but I have not pursued the question) hope for. It went like "they have the technology, we have the oil."

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 13, 2004 07:48 PM

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I used to joke about Bush being the Anti-Christ.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe he really is.

The damage that one man can do...

Posted by: FDRLincoln on January 13, 2004 08:54 PM

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"civil liberty movement" & " ...if the civil liberty movement had been supressed, ' we wouldn't have all these problems'":

I take it your point was to highlight the persistence of a reactionary mentality and its generalized transference: the displacement onto the other of the "problem" "caused" by the other.

Posted by: john c. halasz on January 13, 2004 09:04 PM

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"they have the technology, we have the oil."

I've been thinking that for years. I can even show you prior articles on the subject. A new Dar-al-Islam which included Israel would be formidable.

Posted by: Randolph Fritz on January 14, 2004 12:52 AM

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So Bush thinks CLINTON over reached in the Middle East? Incredible.

(BTW--Thanks for posting passages from the Suskind book. Remarkable stuff.)

Posted by: Jim Harris on January 14, 2004 05:12 AM

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>>"they have the technology, we have the oil."

Randolph Fritz:
>I've been thinking that for years. I can even show you prior articles on the subject.

Please do? I'm curious and would like to know where to find these articles.

Posted by: yhl on January 14, 2004 05:21 AM

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