The Middle East Policy of President John Ellis “Jeb” Bush: Iraq, Iran Wars?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Jeb Bush announced his run for president on Monday. It is hard to know what his Middle East policy would be from his wibbly wobbly pronouncements, but that it would be imperial and aggressive can be deduced from his foreign policy advisory team, including Neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz, the architect of the war of aggression on Iraq in 2003.

Jeb Bush regretted the lapse of the so-called USA PATRIOT Act and dislikes the Bill or Rights’ Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, questioning any restraint on government search and seizure of Americans’ mail and personal effects. In this he does not differ from Barack Obama.

Bush rejects President Obama’s diplomacy with Iran. He views Iran as “a nation that has waged a relentless campaign of terror and war-by-proxy against U.S. troops and American allies for more than three decades.” He damns the current Kerry-Zarif negotiations as leaving in place Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and potentially allowing it to brandish nukes and intimidate other countries in the Middle East. Apparently, as president Bush would cancel or renege on any deal reached with Iran and put the two countries on a war footing.

(Iran has not invaded another country in modern history. “Terrorists” it supports include the Shiite militias of Iraq with which the US is now allied to which it arms and to whom it gives close air support. So it is difficult to see how Bush can call Iran terrorist for supporting these groups but can exempt the US itself. Iran also supports Hizbullah in Lebanon, which grew up as a resistance movement against the two-decades long Israeli occupation of ten percent of Lebanese territory, which caused the 1.3 million Lebanese Shiites to mobilize to regain their homeland. International law does not see movements of resistance to occupation as “terrorist.”)

Bush pledges knee-jerk support to the far, far-right Israeli government of PM Binyamin Netanyahu. He referred to the Obama administration pressure on Tel Aviv to grant statehood to the stateless and rights-less Palestinians as “schoolyard antics.” He as much as said he would give up any pressure on Netanyahu for a two-state solution and surrender to the latter on all major policy issues. Bush made the mistake of associating himself with his father’s secretary of state James Baker, an old-time realist who has ties to the Gulf Arab monarchies and who has long been annoyed by Israeli aggression, expansionism and intransigence. As a result, Bush lost the support of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, widely accused of corruption in China, who put $100 million* into the 2012 presidential campaign and now seems to be supporting Mario Rubio. Bush is clearly hoping that by groveling to Netanyahu he can patch things up with Adelson.

Bush more or less supports his brother’s Iraq War of 2003 and the subsequent brutal military occupation. Rather than seeing Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) as a reaction to that occupation by displaced Sunni Arabs, he blames its rise on Obama’s withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2011, a withdrawal negotiated by . . . George W. Bush.

Bush wants to have more US troops on the ground in Iraq and to embed them in Iraqi military units. He appears not to know that there is virtually no extant Iraqi army in which to embed US troops. He seems also not to know that most of the troops are pro-Iran Shiites who would probably frag the Americans if Bush does to Iran what he says he is planning to do to it. The really effective fighting forces are Shiite militias who probably would not accept American embeds. In short, his plan for Iraq seems both aggressive and escalationist and also completely ignorant of the realities on the ground there. Where have we seen a Bush with that approach to Iraq before?

Bush doesn’t care anything about ordinary Middle Easterners or military dictators who oppress and disappear them: CNN reported, “Jeb Bush says he can’t understand why the White House has told Sisi “you’re not on our team” as jihadism spreads like wildfire through the Middle East.”

The Bushes are closely connected to the oil industry and likely Jeb would pursue policies intended to benefit it in the Middle East.

Bush has become more or less a climate change denier and calls scientists “arrogant” for concluding that man-made global warming is a virtual certainty. No doubt he has long thought them full of themselves over this gravity business and the earth being round, too. His Monday speech implicitly pledged to ramp up carbon emissions by drilling for more oil and gas.

I couldn’t find that he has said anything specific on what his Syria policy would be, but apparently he never met a Middle East intervention he didn’t like.

In the forecast if he wins: war with Iran, troop escalation in Iraq, fawning support of the Israeli Likud Party’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza. The trifecta of bad US policy in the Middle East.


*Typo in original


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Jeb Bush Presidential Campaign Announcement Full Speech (C-SPAN)

16 Responses

  1. You wrote that Adelson contributed $100 Billion. This would be a typo. Addison gave about $100 Million to Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum and others in the 2012 campaigns.

  2. Jeb never met a Middle East intervention he didn’t like because Paul Wolfowitz is calling the shots just like he did with brother George’s war in Iraq. Jeb’s comments about that war were beyond stupid. George is the smart one.

  3. “. . . his foreign policy advisory team, including Neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz . . .”

    Wolfowitz?!? Wow. So many candidates, each one worse than the next.

  4. Andrew Bacevich’s “A Letter to Paul Wolfowitz” marking the 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq puts the blame squarely on Wolfie. If Jeb gets elected I wonder if Bacevich thinks regime change in Iran is next on Paul’s agenda. Another war or two (Putin) will make things right for all the people who thought the 21st would be America’s century. And Paul Wolfowitz was at the top of that list. Neoconservatives never go away. They just find new hosts.

  5. Thanks Juan for a great article. It is hard to believe that over 300million people in an “advanced democracy” have such potential candidates for their Dear Leader.

  6. It speaks to the audacity and shamelessness of the Bush clan and their elite supporters to want to raise another of their sons to the Presidency, and to rule in a similar manner. Yet Jeb may be one of the least bad candidates among the Republican candidates. Which is abysmally depressing.

    • It speaks to the audacity and shamelessness of the Bush clan and their elite supporters …

      and to the low levels of intelligence and morality of a sizable portion of the American electorate.

  7. It’s a policy designed to appeal to the Republican base, not to actually advance the USA’s interests in the region.

    Indeed, it would only deepen the hole that the US is currently in. Most his proposed initiatives have already been tried and have failed spectacularly.

  8. maybe he would pivot toward pro-American policies if he wins the Primary ?

    Doesn’t matter. I’m not happy about it, but I’m resigned to Ms. Rodham winning in the General election.

    Rand Paul / Bernie Sanders supporter

  9. It seems almost a mistake to refer to “Bush’s” policy, implying that he personally has something to do with it. Like his brother, he merely repeats – stumblingly – what he has been told to say. It would be a significant step in the direction of realism to avoid the personal possessive altogether, and to only refer to “the Bush team” or “whoever it is that makes up the policies he endorses.”

  10. The system was broken upon the unfortunate events that permitted Richard Nixon to gain election to the Oval Office during the 1968 election.

  11. ‘In principle, threats are not to be eliminated but are to be maintained and contained, because they do an immense service in the shaping of a shared and effective political and historical consciousness. So it is that Netanyahu the Younger skips and hops between potential catastrophe, on the one hand, which he cultivates, and preventing its realization, on the other, all the while keeping Jewish existence suspended in a state of emergency. His political philosophy is, then, fully based on what can be called a doctrine of restrained catastrophism.

    ‘Thus, in Netanyahu the Younger’s playbook, only a perpetual Palestinian threat, only “management of the conflict” and the maintenance of a perpetual state of war, can preserve the Jewish state over time.’

    link to

    Is it not possible that the U.S. (vide Jeb Bush, but also Hillary Clinton) is macrocosmically also playing the same indefinite bellicose game in the Middle East and elsewhere for similar and convergent (with Israel and others), if not concerted, reasons?

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