Bush on Nation Building
Not at all. While it’s hard to imagine in hindsight, Candidate Bush ran against nation building and promised a “more humble foreign policy.”
Remember, Realist Condi Rice was his chief foreign policy advisor during the campaign and he appointed Realist Colin Powell as his first Secretary of State. The events of 9/11 changed his mindset considerably and his policy was shaped by Neoconservatives for a few years before quietly shifting back to a more conventional Realist policy agenda toward the end of his administration.
A website called zFacts rounded up several relevant Candidate Bush quotes. I’ve reformatted them in cleaner fashion below:
- “Let me tell you what else I’m worried about: I’m worried about an opponent who uses nation building and the military in the same sentence. See, our view of the military is for our military to be properly prepared to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.” – Nov 6, 2000
- “Somalia. It started off as a humanitarian mission then changed into a nation-building mission and that’s where the mission went wrong. The mission was changed. And as a result, our nation paid a price, and so I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation building. I think our troops ought to be used to fight and win war. I think our troops ought to be used to help overthrow a dictator when it’s in our best interests. But in this case, it was a nation-building exercise. And same with Haiti. I wouldn’t have supported either.” – Oct. 11, 2000
- “I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I’m missing something here. I mean we’re going to have kind of a nation-building corps from America. Absolutely not. Our military is meant to fight and win war. That’s what it’s meant to do and when it gets overextended, morale drops.” – Oct. 11, 2000
- “I think we’ve got to be very careful when we commit our troops. The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in national building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders.” Oct. 4, 2000
The above video, obviously redacted, is amusing in hindsight. But that’s who Candidate Bush was. I believe that this was his honest and sincere intention for conducting foreign policy. But, like most presidents — including the current one — things look a little different from the Oval Office.