The Bush Legacy

I read an interesting article today in the International Herald Tribune on how an improved relationship between the US and India will be one of the legacies of the Bush Administration.  I agree with the article but it gave me cause to reflect on the global situation and on other Bush successes.


Closest to home one has to acknowledge that it has been the Bush Administration that has allowed a transformation in relations with New Zealand to occur.  The “nuclear issue” has not gone away completely but both sides have found ways around it.  For all previous administrations since Reagan it has been impossible to navigate around it.  The Clark Administration here deserves praise as well for allowing this to happen.  Also, National needs some praise for its making the relationship with the US a non-partisan issue soon after the 2005 election.  The challenge now is for the Obama Administration to continue the momentum established by Bush and his team.  I have my own ideas on how New Zealand might make things easier for President Obama but won’t be sharing these at this stage.


China/Taiwan relations are another success story under Bush.  Things were potentially very rocky at the start of the Bush Presidency but sensible policy has been pursued throughout the final five years or so of the Administration and tension has eased considerably in the past year.  Again the challenge for Obama is to maintain this thaw.  Again I have some ideas here which for the moment I will not share.  The first test for policy will be over the World Health Organisation.  It is in everyone’s interests to have Taiwan integrated fully into the work of the WHO (we saw with SARS the threat Taiwan’s non-involvement posed for all jurisdictions including China).  Some creativity may be required.  The US should be working hard to encourage this creativity from both Taiwan and China.  Contacts through the APEC and WTO processes should also be encouraged to expand.


Bush’s Korea policy again started with a wobble but I think has come out well.  Some of my China and Japan watcher friends in the US say that too much emphasis has been given to Korea compared to the other two big relationships in the region.  This may well be the case (certainly towards the end of the Bush era it is hard to find real China experts in positions of real influence in State/Defense  etc) but the emphasis on the DPRK has been warranted.  If the Dear Leader (or whatever he is called) is indeed seriously unwell (if not dead) then Korea policy could be an early test for Obama.


I have already covered India.


The other big relationship that has transformed under Bush has been the relationship with France.  Maybe this has had more to do with Sarko than Bush, but relations with France are now radically different than they have been for many years.  Again the Bush Administration has had to change course to allow this to happen (remember those freedom fries???).


I will write something fuller soon on the Middle East.  I am less hard on Bush here than many critics.  Indeed I don’t see radical change ahead under Obama.  What I do hope for is a more active New Zealand engagement in this area, and a closer working relationship between New Zealand and the Obama Administration on Israel/Palenstine issues than we saw under the Clark and Bush Administrations. 



2 Responses to “The Bush Legacy”

  1. stef Says:

    Actually south of the DMZ US-ROK relationships soured for most of Bush’s tenure thought that has more to do with Korean internal politics rather than American foreign policy.

  2. Stephen Jacobi Says:


    Happy New Year to you and yours and I hope the luggage has turned up.

    For the long trip home I suggest you get hold of a copy of Bill Emmott’s latest and excellent book “Rivals” which examines how the power struggle between China, India and Japan will shape the next decade. (Emmot, as you will know, was the former Editor of the Economist). He makes the point about Bush’s policy of engagement with India, although I for one fear the risk of unforseen consequences particularly with regard to the NPT may not have been fully taken into account by the outgoing Administration.

    I am not sure I agree with your comments on Israel. As a modern democratic state Israel needs to be held to a higher standard than the Hamas leadership in Gaza. The Israeli response to ongoing rocket attacks has been completely disproportionate by any standard. NZ has no influence to bring to bear in tis dispute except as part of the international community but our policy of “even handedness” looks increasingly irrelevant in the light of the situation on the ground – for the latest update from the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, particularly on the siutation of the Anglican hospital in Gaza see

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