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Bush's sin is that he has been too honest

I think we are all disgusted by the way President George W. Bush's administration has allowed honesty and candor to seep into the genteel world of international affairs

writes David Brooks sarcastically in a New York Times op-ed piece (of December 13, 2003) that, no, is not particularly partial to the United States (viz. his comments on the Clinton and first Bush administrations) nor is his praise even necessarily favorable to the current Bush administration (as can be seen if you read the column in full).

So the columnist seems to be no more a blindingly devouted follower of Dubya than I am.  Still, for the purpose of the theme of this weblog (the debunking of self-serving anti-Americanism), let us dwell on his points regarding the valient "peace camp" (and their disparaging of the hypocritical U.S. authorities), whose nail he hits squarely on the head. "Until the Bush team came to power, foreign relations were conducted with a certain gentlemanly decorum", Brooks writes.

The United Nations passed resolution after resolution condemning the government of Iraq, without committing the faux pas of actually enforcing them. The leaders of France and Germany announced their abhorrence of Saddam Hussein's regime, and expressed this abhorrence by doing as much business with Saddam as possible.  Then came George W. Bush, the cowboy out of the West, and all good manners were discarded.

The first sign of trouble came when the Bush administration declared its opposition to the Kyoto treaty on global warming. Up until that time, all decent governments had remained platonically in love with the treaty. They praised it, but gave no thought to actually enacting it. Bush said he would scuttle it and did.

Then Bush scandalized the world by announcing his desire to enforce the UN resolutions on Iraq. Then he gave a speech announcing his doctrine of pre-emptive war. Instead of merely taking out Saddam while pretending to abide by the inherited rules of conduct, he actually announced what he was going to do before doing it. This was honesty taken to a reckless extreme. Now his administration has taken to honesty like a drunken sailor. It has made a fetish of candor and forthrightness. Things are wildly out of control.

The U.S. administration is confronted with three nations that have stabbed it in the back with alacrity. The German leader vowed not to run a re-election campaign based on anti-Americanism, then turned around and did just that. The French government has done all it could to ensure that the U.S. effort to transform Iraq would fail. Russia was also willing to let the Iraqis rot in their slave state.

Brooks, as stated above, does not praise this stance unreservedly — far from it — since he acknowledges it to have brought about major problems.  ("The administration's fundamental problem is that it is not very good at dealing with people it can't stand", he writes in his final paragraph.  "The men and women in this White House are exceptionally forthright. When they come across someone they regard as insufferable, their instinct is to be blunt. They seek to be honest rather than insincere, to not sugar things up but to let these people know how they really feel. The Bush administration is facing an insincerity crisis. It has become addicted to candor and forthrightness. It needs an immediate backstabbing infusion.")  Still, it is nice to see another point of view than that of the valient peace camp selflessly trying to prevent the neanderthal-like and hypocritical "neoconservatives" in Washington from making stupid mistakes and being responsible for all the chaos in the world.

© The New York Times

Read the op-ed column in full