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Bush has just come out with the much-awaited memoir of his presidency, Decision Points, and is now doing the grand tour of media interviews starting with the NBC Today Show and going onto Oprah Winfrey and others. It was an occasion for him to settle some personal scores (like his relation with Cheney or his handling of Hurricane Katrina). As might be expected, he has provoked on the way, all sorts of reactions, most of them positives, which should come as no surprise given the results of the mid-term elections. I bet his book is going to be a run-away best-seller!
Indeed, a rumour has been started that this is the moment to reassess (positively) Bush's presidency and I'd like to add my (small) voice to the chorus: thank you, Mr. Bush!
Thank you for the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan!Without the war in Iraq, we could never have outdone Saddam Hussein in the number of Iraqi killed: Saddam with the help of his trusted Chemical Ali managed to massacre some 8,000 Kurds, not to mention the several thousands civilian lives lost in his war with Iran. But since the Americans and Coalition partners have invaded Iraq, over 100,000 civilians have been killed and some sources speak of five or six times that number (but I'll stick on the conservative side: in any case, that's more than Saddam managed to do...) And of course, who's ever going to say that Saddam Hussein could outdo Americans on the subject of torture? We didn't need Wikileaks to know that he hasn't! As to the war in Afghanistan we've just discovered the wonders that corruption can achieve: thanks to generous flows of ready cash from Iran to Karzai's government, Iran has helped maintain America's ally in power. Who'd ever believe that Iran would support American foreign policy? And in both places, we've seen how profitable the privatization of security has been for private companies. The army has given up one its essential functions - maintaining security in war zones - to the private sector. What an achievement!
But wars are not the only blessings you have brought us, Mr. Bush. Thank you for the Great Recession too! One of my readers rightly reminded me (see his comment in my previous post on America folding up) that the single event that started the hubris on Wall Street was the repeal of an obscure piece of legislation which had kept separate the bank's investment and lending functions (this had been one of the great lessons of the Depression: that banks who lend to businesses shouldn't be allowed to play with money on Wall Street). That fateful event took place not under Bush but under Clinton's stewardship. True enough, but the philosophy of deregulation started much earlier - in fact, back in the 1980s with Thatcher and Nixon, and it was gleefully continued under Bush and the then head of the Fed, Greenspan. And it got its final boost when the Soviet Union collapsed, bringing confirmation that there was only one way to organize the economy: let the market have a full and free reign. So down with regulation!
Some people however are having second thought about deregulation: the President of the World Bank for one. He's recently suggested we go back to some form of the gold standard. Economists howled, particularly those on the right. How will the G-20 react now in Seoul? Will re-regulation be on the agenda? Not likely. Obama already has a problem: a currency war with China is looming, and the Fed's "quantitative easing" (read: $600 billion added via the printing press) hasn't helped matters. It has (and will) send the value of the dollar down and there's no telling where all this will land us. Not to mention all those deficit control policies raging in Europe (and about to enter the American scene) that will dampen recovery and heighten social tensions. Why this sudden emphasis on deficit control? Because it is needed to keep those big sovereign debt investors happy. Wait a minute! What the Fed has just done with its $600 billion shows that those investors should beware of governments: the printing press is always a way out of deficit. And has been for centuries (with catastrophic results, but that's another story...)
Actually, surveying the situation, I'm beginning to think that everybody's got it wrong: the politicians, the central bankers, the people protesting in the street. Do politicians (Bush and others) really understand anything or are they just reacting to winds of change and fashions they scent out in their electorate? Is this mess just the result of democracy in action? Churchill used to say that democracy was the "least bad" of all possible systems of government. Least bad ? Perhaps, but, let me tell you, it's pretty bad indeed...