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Is George W. Bush equal to the task?

By Vision Reporter

Added 7th August 2001 03:00 AM

If the man were really running the show, there would at least be a coherent strategic vision and may be tactics to match

By Gwynne Dyer IT’S PERFECTLY all right for the US to slap the rest of the world in the face once in a while, if the rest of the world is wrong or just to defend its own vital national interests. But it should be done for NATIONAL interests, not private ones, and it should be done in ways that cause the least possible offence. That is not what’s happening now. Consider only the past month. In the second week of July, the Bush administration told Congress that its ballistic missile defence project would “bump up against” the constraints of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty “within months”. Never mind that it’s a stupid idea; just look how it’s being done. The ABM Treaty allows either party to withdraw unilaterally on six months’ notice, but no such notice has been given. The US is just going to breach the treaty illegally. In the third week of July, US negotiators at a UN conference aimed at curbing the global trade in small arms effectively killed the initiative. The country that produces over half of the world’s small arms blocked any restrictions on private gun ownership, and vetoed an African-backed proposal to ban arms sales to ‘non-state actors’ (i.e. the guerilla groups who are ravaging so many African countries). “The US should be ashamed,” said South African envoy Jean Du Preez. Late in July it was the turn of the 1972 treaty outlawing germ warfare. For six years, 56 countries have been negotiating a supplementary treaty that would create verification rules and international inspectors to enforce what was previously just a pious pledge not to produce biological weapons. Fifty-five of those countries had agreed on a 200-page draft protocol — and suddenly, on 25 July, the US declared that it could not agree because US pharmaceutical plants, which dominate the world market, would then be open to inspection too, thus jeopardising commercial secrecy. And so it goes. Last week Thomas Novotny, the lead US negotiator for the past decade on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, suddenly resigned his post. Colleagues say that it was over frustration at the sudden US switch from a policy that sought to restrict cigarette advertising and marketing to one that basically echoes the tobacco industry’s positions. It’s as if there was nobody in charge, so that every bureaucratic or industrial interest group with access to the Bush administration gets to make policy for its own bit of the picture. If George W. Bush were really running the show, there would at least be a coherent strategic vision, and maybe tactics to match. But you just have to look at the frequent anguish on his face as he struggles to find his way to the end of the sentence to suspect that he may not be up to the challenge. IQ tests are notoriously unreliable, and we all know that ‘IQ’ does not correspond very closely to executive ability. But the Lovenstein Institute’s conclusions about George W. Bush are nevertheless illuminating. The Lovenstein Institute, based in Scranton, Pennsylvania, has long published an IQ for each new president, based on his academic performance, writings “achieved without aid of staff”, linguistic clarity, and so on. It’s rough and ready stuff, but it awarded Bill Clinton an astonishing IQ of 182 (the average in the US today is around 104), which largely conforms to one’s previous impression that the man was useless but brilliant. At the other end are the Bushes. Even the father only scored 98, but he did seem in charge of his White House. He was, after all, a man with long service in the bureaucratic wars and much foreign experience as well. But George W. Bush has no such background, and the Lovenstein Institute estimates his IQ at 91 — precisely half that of Bill Clinton. An IQ of 91 does not mean you are stupid. It means that you are more intelligent than at least a quarter of the American population. But it probably does not equip you to run large and complex enterprises, nor to deal with the clever and ruthless operators who inhabit the upper reaches of Washington politics, bureaucracy and lobbydom. It is a harsh and an early verdict, but maybe things are spinning out of control just because they are smarter than he is. Gwynne Dyer is a London-based journalist

Is George W. Bush equal to the task?

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