Commentary Magazine


Bush, NATO, and “Losing Face”

In spite of Vladimir Putin’s wishes, George W. Bush has succeeded in getting NATO’s endorsement for his plan to erect a missile shield in Europe. Quite a remarkable feat for a man who’s led his country into a succession of criminal military disasters. After all, hasn’t Bush done incalculable damage to America’s image abroad?

Not according to NATO. The organization’s leaders will be releasing a statement recognizing “the substantial contribution to the protection of allies . . . to be provided by the U.S.-led system,” according to senior American officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the statement’s release. Shocking praise for a nation which has lost so much face internationally.

Putin, sadly, did succeed in getting enough member states to block Georgia’s and Ukraine’s paths toward NATO membership. Bush had this to say:

NATO’s door must remain open to other nations in Europe that share our love for liberty and demonstrate a commitment to reform and seek to strengthen their ties with the trans-Atlantic community . . . We must give other nations seeking membership a full and fair hearing.

Strange words for a unilateralist cowboy bent on bulldozing his way across the globe.

For years, pundits and politicians have been bemoaning America’s loss of global credibility under the leadership of George W. Bush. Who hasn’t heard about all the “rebuilding” of trust that awaits America in the near future. Hillary Clinton’s website proclaims:

The next president’s most urgent task will be to restore America’s standing in the world to promote our interests, ensure our security, and advance our values.

Is it really the restoration of America’s image that should be on Hillary’s mind?

Her website statement goes on:

America is stronger when we lead the world through alliances and build our foreign policy on a strong foundation of bipartisan consensus.

Kind of like what Bush just did in Bucharest.

And of course, as Senator Patrick Leahy said in his endorsement of Barack Obama, “We need a president who can reintroduce America to the world. . . .” But there’s apparently stronger pro-American sentiment to be found in the most skeptical corners of NATO’s Belgium headquarters than in the pulpit of Barack Obama’s Chicago church.

Bush’s greatest foreign policy misjudgment was not one of exclusion and force, but rather inclusion and trust: He thought, a few years back, that the U.S. had a partner in Putin. The damage of that misjudgment, it’s heartening to see, can be somewhat mitigated by America’s standing as a leader among free nations.