Trying to get this post out while George Bush is still president – half an hour or so to go, I think. 😉
The Guardian had a special pull-out section on “The Bush Years” at the weekend. You can probably guess most of the contents without bothering to read it, but I just wanted to take the opportunity to highlight two of the positive points made about Bush and his time in office.
First, Colonel Tim Collins profiles General David Petraeus. He praises the “Petraeus approach” to dealing with the early 21st century’s “struggle of law over chaos and the fight for justice”:
[“War on terror”] is a term he rejects. His approach is to eschew any trapping of legitimacy for the killers and the thugs. His approach is to deal with them for what they are: criminals with no authority, no mandate nor any right to do what they do.
But for every effort in knocking down equal effort is expended in setting up: institutions, ministries, police units, indigenous military forces. It is what sets his approach apart. It’s the long war. It is putting the onus on the host nation to succeed.
“His finest hour is yet at hand”, concludes Col. Collins.
Second, one really solid triumph of the Bush presidency: combating Aids in Africa:
Over the past five years, the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) has saved close to two million lives by providing antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive Africans. It has helped ensure 240,000 babies are born without the virus by giving their mothers drugs to prevent them passing it on at birth.
The Bush administration has committed vast sums to this programme: it received $15bn for the first five years, and was renewed in July with a budget of $48bn.
The article quotes Dr Francois Venter, head of the HIV Clinicians Society in South Africa, whom it describes as being “almost disbelieving in his praise of Bush”:
“I look at all the blood this man has on his hands in Iraq and I can’t quite believe myself but I would say it’s a bold experiment from the last people in the world I would expect to do it, and it is saving a lot of lives. You give these tablets to people and they resurrect themselves. To intervene on such a scale and make such a difference is huge.”
The article observes that there was an element of enlightened self-interest about the programme, with Colin Powell and the CIA persuading Bush that Aids was a national security issue for the US.
It further notes the role of “Christian evangelicals” and “conservative Republican senators” – not groups which normally get a good press in the Guardian! – in lobbying Bush to adopt the plan, and rebuts liberal criticisms over the inclusion of abstention as part of the overall strategy alongside monogamy and condom use.
Well worth reading the whole article. As an article in Slate observes, fighting Aids in Africa is not only an inherently noble cause, but probably the most effective way in which Bush could transform the poor reputation with which he leaves office.