It’s not officially a Bush presidency until thousands of U.S. combat troops are in the field in the Middle East. Per Tim Alberta, sounds like the foreign policy of Bush 3.0 might actually be the sum of Bushes 1.0 and 2.0:
The former Florida governor sought to blunt any perception of a third Bush going blindly — or unilaterally — into the world’s most volatile region, and he suggested that he’d learned from the mistakes of his father and brother. Unlike George H. W. Bush, who hustled out of Iraq and left Saddam Hussein in power after the Gulf War, Jeb Bush advocated an open-ended commitment and pledged to oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Unlike George W. Bush, who invaded Iraq without significant commitments from a diverse coalition of allies or a blueprint for post-Hussein governance, Jeb Bush promised sweeping bilateral support and spoke of political solutions to ensure a stable transition of power…
It was a watershed moment for Bush, one in which he appeared to achieve some catharsis by willingly dispelling the daylight he had sought to establish between himself and his brother. With this speech, he’s now allowing voters to consider his candidacy in the dynastic terms he has long labored to avoid.
He’ll combine Bush 41’s broad multinational coalition with Bush 43’s determination to finish what he started. Ted Cruz, listening to this yesterday as well as to McCain’s call for (what else?) 10,000 American infantry in Syria to target ISIS, offered a “conservatarian” response:
Putting U.S. troops on the ground in Syria to counter the Islamic State and take on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime would be a mistake, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Wednesday.
“I don’t believe the answer is sending boots on the ground to Syria,” the Republican candidate for president told reporters in Washington. “President Obama — and I think far too many Republicans — are eager to get us in the middle of an internecine civil war in Syria. We don’t have a dog in that fight.”…
“The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend,” he said. “And toppling Assad, if it results in radical Islamic terrorists taking over Syria, if it results in Al Qaeda or Al Nusra or ISIS taking over all of Syria, that would be a catastrophic mistake.”
Jeb conveniently didn’t say in yesterday’s speech how he’d remove Assad. (He also didn’t say how many American troops he’d pledge to the war and how many casualties he was prepared to take.) Clearly it wouldn’t be by force with Russia and Iran backing him. The assumption, I suppose, is that after America and its allies are done smashing ISIS, Putin and Khamenei won’t feel so invested in protecting Assad anymore as a bulwark against the jihadi threat to their national interests there. But that’s a big assumption. Why would they want to abandon a Shiite leader who owes everything to them for some unpredictable Sunni/Shiite reconciliation government?
Alberta’s dead right, though, in sensing a catharsis for Jeb in this. The most basic problem of his campaign all along has been that it has no real identity. He started off pigeonholed as a Bush princeling who’d govern pretty much the way Dubya did and … has never really rewritten that script, despite opportunities to do so (e.g., spending a week trying to answer whether he’d invade Iraq in 2003 knowing then what we know now). To the extent that he’s had any political brand independent of Bush 43 this year, it’s been as a punching bag for Trump: He’s the “low energy” Bush brother, the guy who doesn’t sound like a cowboy. I think, at some point late in the summer after his polls really began to crater, he decided to embrace his image as the third Bush and just let the chips fall where they may. That’s why he started rolling Dubya out for fundraisers and why, fully conscious of the analogies that will be drawn, he’s calling for American boots on the ground now. Arguably, as strange as it may seem, it’s his best remaining play: George W. Bush is well-liked by Republicans, if not the general electorate, and Republicans are feeling more hawkish now after Paris than they have in years. Jeb seems to have concluded, maybe not incorrectly, that he’s enough of a longshot at this point that selling himself explicitly as Bush 3.0 is his strongest pitch for the nomination. Maybe there are enough Republicans out there who loathe Trump and are wary of the young, inexperienced Rubio that they’d regard a reprise of Dubya as the least bad option remaining at this point. Especially with ISIS putting the war on terror back in vogue.