As potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates gear up for what may very well be a campaign against a former U.S. Secretary of State, many GOP hopefuls are looking to burnish their foreign policy credentials. For many would-be candidates that means taking a trip to London and inevitably making some embarrassing misstep, on vaccines, evolution, or imaginary no-go zones.
But for one, foreign policy is more than just a weakness to shore up, it is a veritable minefield to be navigated. Which is why my letter of the week is to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
Dear Governor Bush,
It’s me, Melissa.
This week you, brother of George, and son of…other George finally told us where you stand on the one political issue most identified with the Bush legacy: war.
In the lead up to your big foreign policy speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, you distanced yourself from the policies of your brother by saying, “I am my own man.” In that speech you even went so far as to acknowledge that when it came to the Iraq war in particular, “There were mistakes made.”
I did note the use of the passive voice.
But still, admitting that there were mistakes in your brother’s foreign policy and promising a new direction is a hopeful sign for those who are worried you might just retread your brother’s disastrous wars. But then we learned just who is helping you form your new, fresh, independent views.
And as the Washington Post illustrates in its handy Venn diagram, it’s a lot of people from earlier administrations. And one name at the nexus of the graph sticks out like a sore thumb: Paul Wolfowitz.
Now Governor I’m-my-own-man Bush, I can see how you might think an advisor from the administrations of Ronald Reagan, your father, and your brother, may have just the type of history that would make him a strong foreign policy consigliore for you. But if you want to talk about how “mistakes were made” during the Iraq war, then look no further than Paul Wolfowitz.
Here are just a few of the pieces of advice from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz during your brother’s Presidency. He advised on how U.S. troops would be received in Iraq:
“These are Arabs – 23 million of the most educated people in the world who are going to welcome us as liberators.”
He advised on what the war would cost:
“We’re not dealing with Afghanistan, that’s a permanent war of the international community. We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”
He advised on necessary troop levels:
“Some of the higher end predictions that we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq are wildly off the mark.”
Talk about wildly off the mark. He also advised on what we’d see in a post war Iraq:
“There’s been none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another…We have no idea what kind of ethnic strife might appear in the future, although as I’ve noted it has not been the history of Iraq’s recent past.”
That, Governor Bush, is the man you have picked to be your advisor. Wrong on Iraqi reaction to U.S. presence, wrong on the cost of the war, wrong on the needs on the ground, wrong on the ethnic relations in post war Iraq … but apparently just the right choice to be back in the inner circle. Governor, if you want to convince us that you are your own man, you might want to start by getting your own advisers.