Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bush Jnr Moves to Avoid Repeating Sins of His Father

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bush Jnr Moves to Avoid Repeating Sins of His Father

Article excerpt


PRESIDENT George Bush decided to make a U-turn in his approach to the Middle East out of fear that violence there is spinning out of control and might destabilise a region he must rely on to press his war on terrorism.

It could also sabotage his own standing in the opinion polls and the worry is, in part, that he could suffer the fate that befell his father, whose presidency was destroyed by perceptions of weakness.

For too long, Mr Bush thought he could coast along by deliberately being out of touch on the Middle East cauldron. He was riding the wave of support for his firm and confident handling of the post-11 September campaign against international terrorism. His advisers were solidly behind him and he was plagued by no ambiguities, paradoxes or contradictions.

But in the case of the Middle East, his foreign policy team was not of one mind as they had been after the atrocities against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. There were all-out hawks, fence-sitters, interventionists, cautious toe-dippers.

Even on Wednesday, only hours before the president announced his dramatic shift of policy, fierce arguments were going on among his advisers.

Mr Bush discovered that his spontaneous remarks about the situation did him more harm than good, and at times were material for the sort of merciless satire that ruined his father.

How good he can be when reading someone else's words was illustrated yesterday in his tough, perfectly non-ambiguous statement outlining a new direction for the US. A move from hands-off, to deep involvement.

Part of the reason for his stumbling is that he tended to see Israel's situation as similar to that of his own in crushing the terrorist network with brutal efficiency.

An aide who worked in the White House until very recently told me that in the early days of the Middle East catastrophe, Mr Bush had told Ariel Sharon he "could give him four days" - a licence to deal with the Palestinians as he saw fit. …

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