George Bush Sr. on Foreign Policy
President of the U.S., 1989-1993; Former Republican Rep. (TX)
Measured response to Berlin Wall to avoid alarming Soviets
The Wall has come down. The President was careful and guarded in his public reaction to the unfolding events, telling reporters that he was very pleased with the development. "We are saluting those who can move forward with democracy," the
President said. "We are encouraging the concept of a Europe whole and free." These words were deliberately measured so as not to alarm the Soviets or get too far ahead of the West Germans in pushing for reunification.
In private conversations within the West Wing, however, his support for unification was unequivocal. Nevertheless, when we suggested on that momentous day that President Bush go to Berlin, as Kennedy and Reagan had done, the
President demurred. "This is a German moment," he said with characteristic modesty. "What would I do? Dance on the Wall?"
Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.251-252
, Jan 10, 2012
1991: Met with Yeltsin but avoided embarrassing Gorbachev
In April 1991 the Soviet's decline accelerated precipitously. We decided that the president needed to meet Soviet leaders other than Gorbachev. Boris Yeltsin was making a claim--outlandish at the time--that Russia needed to be liberated from the Soviet
Union. Yeltsin was Gorbachev's bitter rival, and when he requested a meeting with President Bush there was some reluctance to see him. The President had enormous respect and sympathy for Gorbachev and was determined to do nothing to embarrass the
Soviet leader. We settled on a tried-and-true remedy for such a problem: a meeting with the national security advisor, during which the President would make an unannounced drop-by. Yeltsin was told only that he would meet Brent Scowcroft.
into the meeting, the President flung open the door. Yeltsin smiled broadly, jumped up, and embraced the startled leader of the free world in a bear hug. After about 30 minutes the President left, and I escorted a self-satisfied Yeltsin out to his car.
Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.256-257
, Jan 10, 2012
1989: A new breeze is blowing in world refreshed by freedom
Bush occupied the White House during a time of dramatic change--from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Bush recognized the opportunity provided by a period of change in his inaugural address: "I come before you and assume the presidency at a moment rich with promise.
We live in a peaceful, prosperous time, but we can make it better. For a new breeze is blowing and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn.
The totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown away like leaves from an ancient, lifeless tree. There is new ground to be broken and new action to be taken."
Source: The 100 Greatest Speeches, by Kourdi & Maier, p. 50-52
, Mar 3, 2010
US troops to Somalia to alleviate starvation
Eleven days after two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down over Mogadishu, killing 18 and creating the gruesome spectacle of warlords dragging American soldiers through the streets,
McCain, who had already been agitating for the troops to come home, did just what he'd criticized Democrats for doing two decades earlier--tried to cut off funding to precipitate a withdrawal. The U.S. troop presence, which began under President
George H. W. Bush, was initially sent to alleviate an acute starvation crisis brought on by political chaos. But under Clinton the mission had crept to rooting out warlords and providing security. McCain was having none of it: "Our mission is
Somali was to feed a million starving who needed to be fed. It was not an open-ended commitment. It was not a commission of nation building, not warlord hunting, or any of the other extraneous activities which we seem to have been engaged in."
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.161-162
, Oct 9, 2007
Need public relations to change how others view America
In 1975, an American diplomat wrote: "The American people do not have any concept of how others around the world view America. We think we are good, honorable, decent, freedom loving. Others are firmly convinced that though they like the people
themselves in our country, that we are embarking on policies that are anathema to them. We have a massive public relations job to do on all of this."
That diplomat, of course, was George H.W. Bush, at the time the US liaison to China under President
Ford. His belief that the nation's problem with the world was merely a "public relations" issue is simply mystifying.
Is it really possible that a man like
Bush, whose job it was to understand world opinion, could really have believed that all these other people in the world, the Europeans, the Africans, the Asians--all of them merely misunderstood what the US's objectives were?
Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p.329-330
, Feb 15, 2007
Informally called world leaders often, while President
Dad took an informal--relaxed, even--approach in contacting his fellow world leaders. From the beginning of his administration, he started working the phones, reaching around the globe to call his fellow leaders. Condi Rice told me, "He would call
someone like German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, for example, all the time--just to say that he was thinking about him after reading how Kohl had won some big vote in the Bundestag or something like that."
"This had never been done before, and in fact some
of the foreign leaders thought they were phony calls at first," said [future Secretary of Defense] Bob Gates. "It was like somebody saying, 'This is Queen Elizabeth calling.' It took probably a year and a half before we had some procedures smoothed out
with some of these other people. It went the fastest with the British and the Germans and the French, but it was really funny some of the time when he would reach out and try and talk to some of these leaders, because they just weren't prepared for him."
Source: My Father, My President, by Doro Koch Bush, p.282-283
, Oct 6, 2006
1989: Restraint about Berlin Wall, to avoid Soviet reaction
Then, November 9, 1989, the East German government announced a new visa policy that essentially opened the door to the West. After 28 years, the Berlin Wall "fell" in the sense that it was rendered obsolete by this new immigration policy.
Given this dramatic development, there were many voices in Congress urging Dad to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall as the triumph of democracy.
"My restraint--or prudence, if you will--was misunderstood, certainly by some in Congress,"
Dad recalled. "Dick Gephardt, the leader in the House, was saying, 'Our president doesn't get it. He ought to go to Berlin, stand on the Wall, dance with the young people to show the joy that we all feel.' I still feel that would have been the stupidest
thing an American president could do, because we were very concerned about how the troops in East Germany would react. We were very concerned about the nationalistic elements in the Soviet Union maybe putting Gorbachev out."
Source: My Father, My President, by Doro Koch Bush, p.298-300
, Oct 6, 2006
Became UN Ambassador after campaigning against UN
After losing his second run for Senate, George's public life looked as though it was over. Nixon planned to dust off his obligation to George by appointing him head of the SBA or giving him a White House staff position with no specific duties. Some Nixon
aides came up with the UN as the best way to keep George politically alive.
Nixon said, "I told him our plan, which didn't go down too well at first. 'We hated the UN in Texas,' Barbara said. She reminded me that George had campaigned against the UN.
George had said the UN 'has largely been a failure in preserving freedom.' I explained to George that there was no better way for him to stay in public life than to become US Ambassador to the UN."
After the President offered him some insignificant
position, George said he'd rather have the UN because he felt that he could make friends for Nixon in a way that no one else could. And his unswerving loyalty would enable him to represent US foreign policy the way Nixon wanted it represented.
Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.284-285
, Sep 14, 2004
1971: Argued for dual UN representation for China & Taiwan
In Oct. 1971, the UN voted to recognize Red China and give the People's Republic of China the seat occupied by Taiwan, or Nationalist China. George vowed in his Senate campaigns if that were to happen, he would advocate US withdrawal from the UN. Now, as
Nixon's Ambassador, he had to argue for "dual representation" and plead for 2 seats: one in the Security Council for Communist China, and one in the General Assembly for Taiwan. He had lobbied hard among the 129 missions for support and had thought he
had enough delegates committed to the US policy. But on the final count, he lost 59-55, with 15 countries abstaining. He took the defeat as a personal rebuke and said he was disgusted by the anti-American sentiments. "For some delegates--who literally
danced in the aisles when the vote was announced--Taiwan wasn't really the issue," George said. "Kicking Uncle Sam was."
When the Taiwanese Ambassador walked out of the hall for the last time, George caught him & apologized for what had happened.
Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.289-290
, Sep 14, 2004
US gives Israel $1,000 for every Israeli citizen
Neil Bush got a rush of Arab investors after traveling to Saudi Arabia and delivering a speech in which he said that the Arabs' problem in the US is that their lobby and public-relations machine is not as strong as the Israelis'. In saying that, he fed
directly into an article of faith held in the Arab world and by anti-Semites the world over--that America's Middle East policy is driven by the Jewish lobby rather than national interest. Neil simply had repeated the sentiments of his father who was
never perceived as pro-Israel. As President, Bush had complained in a White House press conference about the strength of the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill. He reminded his critics that the US gave "Israel the equivalent of $1,000 for every Israeli
citizen," a remark that detractors saw as an allusion to the stereotype of Jews as greedy and money-grubbing. Echoing the President's comments was his Secretary of State James Baker, who said, "F--- the Jews. They don't vote for us anyway."
Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.421
, Sep 14, 2004
1987: Visited concentration camps in Poland
In 1986 President Reagan decided to visit the cemetery in Bitburg, West Germany, that held the graves of 49 Nazi storm troopers. His decision angered Jewish groups in the US & Europe, all of whom held public demonstrations.
Ronald Reagan would not
budge. He had given his word. Former President Nixon backed him in his resolve, as did Vice President Bush, who sent him a secret note, which Reagan later published in his autobiography: "Mr. President, I was very proud of your stand. If
I can help absorb some heat, send me into battle--It's not easy, but you are right!!!"
The outcry over Bitburg had convinced the Bush hardnoses that he needed to demonstrate his own sensitivity to the Holocaust. They scheduled a 4-day trip to Poland in
Sept. 1987 with stops at the concentration camps of Birkenau and Auschwitz, where 4 million people had been exterminated. The trip was so blatantly political that the Polish press accused Bush of using their country to launch his presidential campaign.
Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.439
, Sep 14, 2004
1980s: Secretly assisted airlifting Ethiopian Jews to Israel
In the 1980's the Israelis launched a secret effort known as Operation Moses to rescue Ethiopian Jews. Once the news of the rescue operation broke, the effort had to be shut down, leaving hundreds of Jews stranded. The VP went directly to the
CIA and secretly arranged a rescue mission that saved those Ethiopians. The mission was never made public until George's campaign. A flyer mailed to Jewish voters was titled "The one candidate who has proven his commitment to the Jewish people."
Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.441
, Sep 14, 2004
1991: Returned asylum-seeking refugees from Haiti
On Jan.5, I announced that I'd temporarily continue Pres. Bush's policy of intercepting & returning Haitians who were trying to reach the US by boat, a policy I had strongly criticized during the election. After Haiti's elected president, Jean-Bertrand
Aristide, was overthrown by Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras in 1991, [many refugees fled].
When the Bush administration, which appeared to be more sympathetic to Cedras than I was, began to return the refugees, there were loud protests from the human rights
community. I wanted to make it easier for Haitians to seek and obtain political asylum in the US, but was concerned that large numbers of them would perish in trying to get here, as about 400 had done just a week earlier. So, I said that, instead of
taking in all the Haitians who could survive the voyage to America, we would beef up our official presence in Haiti and speed up asylum claims there. In the meantime, for safety reasons, we would continue to stop the boats and return the passengers.
Source: My Life, by Bill Clinton, p.463-464
, Jun 21, 2004
1980s-90s: Supported military junta in Haiti
The Marines invaded Haiti in 1915, destroyed the parliamentary system, reinstituted slavery, killed nobody knows how many people (Haitians say about 15,000), turned their country into a plantation for US investors, and instituted a National Guard, which
is a brutal, murderous force that has run the place pretty much ever since under US backing.
This continued right through to when Bush and Clinton supported the military junta directly, right through the worst terror. That was another thing that
I saw personally for a couple of days. Right now, in Queens, NY, one of their leading criminals, Emmanuel Constant, is hidden by the US. He's already been sentenced in Haiti for terrorist crimes. He was the head of the paramilitary force that was
responsible for killing maybe 5,000 people in Haiti in the early 1990s when Bush and Clinton were supporting the military junta. Haiti has tried to extradite him, but of course the US doesn't even bother responding, and the press won't even comment on it
Source: Power and Terror, by Noam Chomsky, p. 74-75
, May 25, 2002
Made deals with Gorbachev’s USSR, then Yeltsin’s Russia
A series of summits with Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev resulted in the signing of treaties on arms reductions and agreements on other issues. As communist governments collapsed in Eastern Europe, Bush became to some degree a bystander,
watching as nations redefined their futures. In August 1991, only weeks after Bush and Gorbachev had signed a strategic-arms--reduction treaty in Moscow, the Soviet president was nearly ousted in an attempted coup. Thanks to Boris Yeltsin’s
resistance to the coup, Gorbachev was able to return to power, however briefly. When, in December 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved into a loose confederation of independent republics and several unaffiliated states, Bush quickly recognized the new
states and sought a rapprochement with Yeltsin, now president of Russia. In the spring of 1992 Bush and Yeltsin agreed to substantial cuts in nuclear weapons.
Source: Grolier’s Encyclopedia on-line: “The Presidency”
, Dec 25, 2000
Supported 1990 South Africa sanctions
In 1990, Bush met separately with South Africa’s reform-minded president, F. W. de Klerk, and with the newly freed black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela. By supporting sanctions against the South African government,
Bush appeared to help speed the dismantling of its system of racial separation. His administration lifted the sanctions in 1991 after concluding that the requirements imposed by Congress had been met.
Source: Grolier Encyclopedia on-line, “The Presidency”
, Dec 25, 2000
Clinton promised to overturn "immoral" Haiti policy
Clinton's handling of Haiti involved many policy reversals that culminated with the Carter mission. One GOP critic said the "mess in Haiti was caused by Clinton running off at the mouth during the last election, by criticizing in an irresponsible manner
President Bush's handling of the situation." While that statement has a partisan ring to it, the fact is that prior to Carter's dealing with Cedras, Clinton did not have Democratic support for an invasion of Haiti.
There certainly are those who will
claim that Clinton's approach to Haiti eventually worked, since Cedras was ousted and Aristide returned to power. [Overall], Clinton would have considered Haiti a foreign policy victory.
Clinton the campaigner had promised that he would change the
policy of the Bush administration relative to the immigration of Haiti. Clinton characterized the Bush plan as immoral. The Haitians took Clinton at his word. A boatload of 400 Haitians set off on a journey to freedom in the US. They died in the attempt.
Source: The Dysfunctional President, by Paul Fick, p. 24-25&62
, Jun 1, 2000
Built consensus with UN to move against Saddam Hussein
You have to build a consensus. Ross mentioned Saddam Hussein. We tried to bring him into the family of nations. When he moved against Kuwait, I said this will not stand. We went to the UN, we made historic resolutions up there,
the whole world was united. If we had let sanctions work and tried to build a consensus on that, Saddam today would be in Saudi Arabia controlling the world's oil supply, and he would be there maybe with a nuclear weapon.
Source: The Third Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate
, Oct 19, 1992
New World Order: open borders; open trade; open minds
Much has changed over the last 2 years. The Soviet Union has taken many dramatic and important steps to participate fully in the community of nations. We are hopeful that the machinery of the UN will no longer be frozen by the divisions that plagued us
during the cold war, that at last--long last--we can build new bridges and tear down old walls, that at long last we will be able to build a new world based on an event for which we have all hoped: an end to the cold war.
The United Nations can help
Source: Address to the United Nations General Assembly (APP)
, Oct 1, 1990
Tiananmen: deplored crackdown but maintained communication
After China’s rulers brutally crushed massive student demonstrations in the spring of 1989, Bush-who knew the aging leaders personally-deplored the crackdown but maintained communication with the leadership.
His stance angered human rights activists and appeared to have no effects on China’s policy toward internal dissent.
Source: Grolier Encyclopedia on-line, “The Presidency”
, Dec 25, 2000
Page last updated: Jul 11, 2013