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The Great Bush Leadership Casualties: Foreign Edition

Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2009/01/failures.jpgFrom top left: Norm Coleman, Sen. John McCain, Pervez Musharraf, Tony Blair, Tom Ridge and Jose Maria Anzar

RELATED: Bush’s Leadership Casualties, U.S. Edition

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that the final two months of the Bush administration featured spirited defenses of its record in foreign affairs. When he gave his farewell address on Thursday evening, George W. Bush framed his administration’s record as a response to foreign crises, from 9/11 to Iraq. And indeed, the Iraq war — an elective campaign fought for what have since been exposed as inoperative reasons — will most likely consume the bulk of historians’ attention when considering the Bush years.

But as the administration leaves office, it’s easy to forget that there was once a period when foreign leaders considered the Bush team to be a collection of titans. It made some sense, in the aftermath of the worst domestic terrorist attack in U.S. history and an assertion of an open-ended U.S. reprisal, to bandwagon with the Bush administration. But much as the world ended up undermining Bush’s plans, many of Bush’s allies endured similar fates. Here are the tales of six leaders — or, in some cases, would-be-leaders — who learned the hard way that, contrary to the way it looked in Sept. 2001, it actually made more sense to be against Bush than to be with him.

Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2009/01/pedrocarmona-150x150.jpgPedro Carmona

**Pedro Carmona

**It’s hard to beat Fidel Castro for the title of Latin American leader the American right finds most obnoxious, but the increasing leftism, Yanqui-bashing and, to be fair, authoritarianism of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made him, at the least, a close runner-up. (It helps to be in control of the only Western Hemispheric member of the oil cartel OPEC.) Yet in April 2002, after Chavez made a push to exert greater control over the state oil company PDVSA by firing several of its managers, right-wing Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Otto Reich saw a golden opportunity. A conflagration of wealthy anti-Chavez Venezuelans and elements of the military arrested Chavez and briefly installed a business leader named Pedro Carmona as president. The U.S., claiming a lack of involvement in the coup, quickly recognized Carmona’s government, a move that shocked the Organization of American States — after all, the U.S. had for decades been calling for increased democracy in the region. It was later reported that Reich had been in frequent contact with Carmona, giving him political advice during the early days of the coup, although the extent of the U.S. involvement was not known. Carmona, against Reich’s advice, disbanded the Venezuelan National Assembly and the Supreme Court, a blunder that caused the military to lose confidence in him and allow Chavez to regain power in a matter of days.

January 2009: Carmona had to go into exile. He’s now living in Miami.

Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2009/01/tonyblair-150x150.jpgFormer PM Tony Blair

Tony Blair

Possibly the most tragic figure of them all. In the late 1990s, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder had all risen to power in the U.S., the U.K. and Germany by publicly — some would say ostentatiously — distancing their center-left politics from the perceived excesses of their respective left-wing parties. It was a Western geopolitical movement known as the Third Way, centering around a gauzy, inchoate politics of community, globalization and responsibility. During his departure from office, Clinton told Blair to work closely with Bush, despite Bush’s dismissive attitude toward Third-Way politics. Blair clearly took Clinton’s advice to heart, following Bush into a war and occupation of Iraq that shattered Blair’s once-impressive popularity in Britain and caused the antiwar heavy-hitters in the European Union, France and Germany, to reposition themselves as the new continental centers of political gravity. He managed to secure reelection for a third Labour government — a historic achievement — but only after much of Labour had repudiated him already. In 2007, the unpopular Blair stepped down in favor of his ally/rival, Gordon Brown, so as not to destroy the Labour brand, and became a U.S.-Europe Mideast envoy.

January 2009: Last week Bush gave him a Presidential Medal of Freedom.



Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2009/01/jose-anzar-150x150.jpgJose Maria Aznar

** Jose Maria Aznar**

Luckily for Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, the Spanish left had been in disarray for years when he decided in 2002 to support the Iraq war. As a temporary member of the United Nations Security Council, Spain had enormous appeal to the United States, which needed as much high-profile international support for its war of choice as it could attract. Despite widespread opposition to the war, Aznar decided that it was a safer bet to stand with the global superpower, and it seemed like a worthwhile political gamble until March 11, 2004. In advance of national elections, Islamic extremists set off bombs around the central Madrid train station that killed nearly 200 people. Days before, the Socialist Party had been running behind Aznar’s Popular Party by a 38-42 percent margin. But Aznar, unwilling to concede that his support for the war might have prompted the bombing, told the public that the Basque seperatist group ETA was responsible, a lie that quickly unraveled. The Socialists routed Aznar’s party and pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq.

January 2009: Aznar may be finished in Spanish politics, but he’s on the board of Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorporation, which is probably more powerful than most countries on Earth.

Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2009/01/alawi2-150x150.jpgIyad Allawi

Iyad Allawi

Long before Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki kicked the U.S. out of Iraq, there was a premier named Ibrahim Jaafari, and before Ibrahim Jaafari there was a pro-American would-be strongman who was supposed to be the one who saved Iraq from chaos. He was Iyad Allawi, a longtime CIA asset and one-time architect of a failed coup against Saddam Hussein. “I appreciate your will, and I appreciate your strength,” Bush gushed to Allawi in September 2004, three months after installing him as the first “interim” prime minister of U.S.-occupied Iraq. Allawi tried a great deal to please Bush, ordering his forces — really U.S. troops, but he didn’t sweat the details — into Najaf to combat cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in August, a donnybrook that ended when a more-prominent Iraqi cleric demanded a ceasefire. When the first-ever Iraqi national election loomed in January 2005, Bush aide Robert Blackwill backed Allawi in the Wall Street Journal, boasting, “Mr. Allawi’s message is simple: Join us in building the new Iraq and accept its benefits or, if you support the insurgency, get ready to die.” Alas, weeks later Allawi found himself without a job. In 2007, he started lobbying on Capitol Hill — even hiring the powerful GOP lobbyfirm Barbour Griffith & Rogers — for Bush to simply install him in power through some unspecified extra-democratic measure.

January 2009: After his lobbying failed, Allawi, whose Iraqi National Accord Party is now a marginal actor in Baghdad, gave an interview earlier this month calling Bush an “utter failure.” Projection much?

Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2009/01/john_howard_may_2006-150x150.jpgJohn Howard

**John Howard **

Howard was a giant in Australian politics, a fixture since the 1980s in parliament. In 1996 he ended the conservative opposition’s 13-year exile and governed until 2007, making him the second-longest serving prime minister in Australian history. Howard’s downfall was partially due to his — wait for it — support for the Iraq war, which was was controversial in Australia, though not as disliked as it was in much of the rest of the world. Labour Party leader Kevin Rudd campaigned on his early opposition to the war, and while a host of domestic issues played their role in his election, he helped use his foreign-affairs criticisms of Howard to become the most popular politician in the history of at least one Australian political poll. Howard made sure to go out in style ahead of the election, attacking Barack Obama’s promise to end the war as “empty rhetoric” on the day after Obama announced his candidacy for the presidency. (Rudd ended up withdrawing Australia’s troop complement from Iraq, ironically.)

January 2009: Howard is, according to Wikipedia, available for public speeches; Bush gave him a Presidential Medal of Freedom along with Blair.


Pervez Musharraf

Pervez Musharraf

In defense of the former dictator of Pakistan, it’s a wonder that he was able to stay in power as long as he did. After taking power in a military coup in 1999, the Army chief of staff made a fateful decision in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to back the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan against Pakistan’s former Afghan client, the Taliban. With extremism on the rise during the past decade in nuclear-armed Pakistan, Musharraf’s gamble might not have seemed so intelligent at first, but it becomes more explicable when remembering that the Bush administration, determined to keep Pakistan on its side, bought Musharraf’s argument that he was the only Pakistani capable of governing in line with American interests. As a result, Musharraf was able to consolidate power and break his years-old promise to retire from his military service and in return, the Bush administration showered the Musharraf-controlled military with $10 billion in untraceable cash transfers. As a result, Pakistani extremists and middle-class democrats had a common cause in despising the United States for helping Musharraf stay in power. Alas for him, in 2007 Musharraf finally went too far: that spring, he fired the chief justice of the Supreme Court on a dubious pretext of corruption, prompting a middle-class revolt lasted most of the year, leading to Musharraf briefly declaring opposition parties illegal and suspending the constitution at year’s end. Even during Musharraf’s late-period excesses, he had Bush administration support. “Under his leadership, Pakistan has made great progress toward [democracy],” Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said in November 2007. In August 2008, pressure became too intense for Musharraf and he finally resigned. Oh yeah, and now Pakistan has its very own Taliban; the Pakistani tribal areas became al-Qaeda’s new safe haven; and Musharraf never caught Osama bin Laden. What did Bush get for $10 billion in other people’s money?

January 2009: Figuring out his next move. It’s tempting to think that Musharraf’s career is over, but Pakistani politics is filled with second and third acts. Had she not been assassinated in December 2008, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was on track to replace Musharraf. So anything’s possible.

RELATED: Bush’s Leadership Casualties, U.S. Edition

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