July 1, 1999
AND AMERICAN "LEADERSHIP"
One shouldn't read too much into
deviations from prepared texts, and in fact the prepared text
of Texas Gov. George W. Bush's remarks distributed to newsies
during his California fundraising swing this week carried
a warning right at the top "[Note: Governor Bush frequently
deviates from prepared text]." He did so fairly often
in minor ways without moving notably off-message or missing
applause lines. But one deviation during the $500,000 fundraising
luncheon in Irvine struck me as at least potentially significant.
The prepared text, after a promise to rebuild our military
power "because a dangerous world still requires a sharpened
sword," was as follows: "I will move quickly to
defend our people and our allies against missiles and blackmail."
But Gov. Bush delivered it as follows:
"I will move quickly to defend our allies against missiles
Does that mean that Gov. Bush simply skipped a couple of words
or that somewhere in his consciousness he knows that "our
people"-presumably the American people he repeatedly
professed to love as unconditionally as he says George and
Barbara loved himface no particular threat from missiles
or blackmail unless our leaders go out of their way to invite
threats? That it's mainly our purported allies although why
we should insist on referring to nations with whom we have
generally friendly relations as allies in the absence of a
declared war (unless we're in a state of permanent war) is
a mystery to me but apparently to few others who are likely
to need or desire would-be President George W.'s quick defense?
That American military might now exists quite explicitly not
for the defense of the United States but for the defense of
its allies of the week?
I don't know. As I said, he made numerous minor changes in
the prepared text, perhaps only because he got bored delivering
exactly the same words time after time and wanted to experiment
with slightly different ways of saying pretty much the same
thing. But it might well have been a barely conscious acknowledgment
of the fact that the U.S. government now sees its role in
the world as much more capacious than the mere defense of
a country that still even in the era of ballistic missiles
has natural defensive advantages that would make a tolerably
reliable missile defense system and a bare-bones military
quite sufficient to counter the peril of outright foreign
The only other insight I have into George Ws approach to foreign
policy beyond the applause line "America must lead. Because
our greatest export to the world is, and always will be, freedom"
comes from a conversation I had with his top foreign policy
adviser, Condoleezza Rice, during the week I spent as a media
fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. Ms. Rice's conception
of America's proper role in the world is more expansive than
mine, but perhaps not as ill-conceived or opportunistic as
the Clinton administration's.
Condoleezza Rice did say that some kind of military action
in Kosovo was justifiable because of the scale of ethnic cleansing
American intelligence believed Milosevic was about to undertake
right in NATO's back yard and in what she conceives as the
United States' natural security zone, which she sees as embracing
most of Europe and the Middle East. But she believes the Clinton
policy as it was carried out was a combination of intrusive
aggressiveness and ineffectiveness that will lead to a longer-term
commitment than was needed. She thinks it is a mistake to
flail around the world calling ourselves the "indispensable
nation" and hopes that we don't let the idea of strategic
air power and especially the cruise missile become a drug.
She thinks that Gov. Bush will be more cautious in using rhetoric
redolent of a grand world-saving mission because he understands
that exercising power is not risk-free.
That's not all that remarkable, of course. Even war hawks
at the Weekly Standard and National Review are
questioning the Clinton administration's tactics and wondering
what, if anything, was won during 78 days of bombing. But
I also found Ms. Rice at least polite and attentive when I
outlined my much more fundamental criticisms of the war (yes,
I interview people to get their views, but I seldom resist
the opportunity to convey mine in the process) and opined
that a foreign policy consisting of reduced barriers to trade
and immigration combined with a widely trumpeted policy decision
that we would resist the temptation to intervene politically
and militarily in the affairs of other countries would give
the United States a better opportunity to lead by example
and really export freedom.
The fact that Condoleezza Rice listened politely doesn't mean
she was persuaded or that she will instantly convey this notion
to Gov. Bush as the next hot policy idea. She made it clear
that she is an adviser and that the governor will make his
own policy decisions. And the safest assumption is that George
W. Bush is his father's son and shares most of his father's
It is also true, however, that George W. if he becomes president
will come to the job not after having been Ambassador to China,
Ambassador to the UN. and head of the CIA, but having been
Governor of Texas. Growing up in the Bush family he has surely
moved in New World Order circles, but he might not have the
same level of emotional commitment to foreign affairs and
international organizations his father had. If he concentrates
mainly on domestic policy and restoring dignity to the office
of the presidency, he might be more cautious about jumping
into foreign adventures than some others might be.
What all this really means, of course, is that those of us
who do not relish a series of wars to expand and monitor the
American Empire need to work harder to create an intellectually
coherent and politically effective anti-imperialist movement
that George W. or any future president will have to take into
account when deciding about future interventions. Not that
it will be easy.
Bock is Senior Essayist at the Orange
County Register and a weekly columnist for at WorldNetDaily.
He is the author of Ambush
at Ruby Ridge (Putnam-Berkley, 1995). His exclusive
column now appears every Thursday on Antiwar.com.