Dec 5, 2018

The world George H.W. Bush left behind

Dave Lawler, author of World

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Almost 26 years after he left office a one-term president, George H.W. Bush was remembered today as a great man — with the chancellor of reunified Germany and the president of free Poland in the pews.

Why it matters: The world that was in many ways born during the Bush administration — as the Soviet Union crumbled, democracy spread and America’s preeminence solidified — is under severe threat.

Russian aggression is again a chief threat to American and global security, with a different type of rivalry under Vladimir Putin but a rivalry nonetheless.

  • China has supplanted the Soviets as America's great rival: The new wars are over trade and intellectual property, with our unipolar status fading fast.
  • Europe is fraying: The nationalist right has taken office in Poland and Hungary, and has the ground crumbling under German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s feet. Euroskeptics were swept into office in Italy. The U.K. is leaving the EU.
  • The Middle East is a mess: 28 years after Bush declined to march on Baghdad, and 15 years after his son chose the opposite path, the countries of Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan are in tatters.

The bottom line: Bush was a champion of the U.S.-led world order who valued alliances and building international consensus. In 2018, President Trump's rhetoric is "America First."

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