President for a Year

If you were president for a year, what would you do? Apparently believing that he is faced with the same question, President Bush plans to negotiate a treaty with Iraq that would lead to the withdrawal of approximately 2/3 of U.S. forces by the end of 2008 (H/T: Captain’s Quarters). He also expects the Israelis and Palestinians to sign a peace treaty by the end of 2008. One does wonder why Bush has decided to wait until the last year of his presidency to actually govern.

That said, the buyer should beware. Yes, Bush’s new plan will mean the withdrawal of 2/3 of our troops from Iraq by the end of 2008. It will also mean a permanent troop commitment in Iraq (read: permanent occupation of Iraq), and the Bush administration is indicating that it may not seek the Senate’s approval for such a commitment (H/T: TPMmuckraker). Meanwhile, the Iraqi constitution mandates that 2/3 of the Iraqi parliament must approve such a plan, a truly unlikely scenario.

Regarding the latter initiative – peace between the Israelis and Palestinians by the end of 2008 – that’s about as likely to happen as President Bush being re-elected by an overwhelming write-in campaign because the people just couldn’t get enough of him. Even if we coerce the Israelis and the Palestinians into signing some treaty by the end of 2008, peace between the two nations isn’t going to happen until the many problems underlying the conflict are addressed. While some of these problems (i.e., Israeli settlements in the West Bank) may be addressed by such a treaty, other even more serious problems most likely will not.

So what gives? Why the sudden foreign policy push from President Bush?

As with any president, Bush wants to secure his legacy. Right now his legacy consists of underwhelming domestic achievements, several domestic failures (i.e., Social Security reform and comprehensive immigration reform), a devastating midterm election during his second term, an unpopular war based on misleading information offered by the White House, and scandal after scandal that would make even Richard Nixon blush. Wrapping up the war with some kind of positive spin and securing some kind of deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, whether it lasts or not, would improve that legacy.

Second, Bush is thinking – as all presidents do – about his successor. He wants him to be a Republican. And if he wants his successor to be a Republican, then he knows he better make some kind of positive changes in a foreign policy now repudiated by most Americans. If the future Republican nominee can boast a more peaceful Middle East instead of a more volatile one, that would go a long way toward getting that Republican elected. If he can’t, let’s face it: the White House will likely be occupied by the Democratic nominee.

Unfortunately, it seems that President Bush only governs when his legacy and his party’s power are on the line. False prestige and power, the hallmarks of the Bush administration – along with smoke and mirrors.

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