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Jeb Bush’s Evasions on Foreign Policy

Jeb Bush won’t talk about his brother’s foreign policy record:

Jeb Bush, who plans to sketch out his foreign policy views in a major speech next week, said on Friday that his likely presidential campaign would focus on future challenges and not on “re-litigating” the wars his brother led the United States into as commander in chief.

That may be a predictable response from Bush, but it’s an untenable position. Anyone that aspires to be president can’t evade questions about the two most significant wars in recent U.S. history. Answering those questions requires addressing the previous administration’s handling of both. If Bush won’t “re-litigate” the Bush-era wars, we should assume that he saw nothing wrong with how his brother managed them. If he can’t bring himself to explain what he would have done differently or how he would conduct foreign policy in light of the lessons of the last decade and a half, he not only shouldn’t be president, but he has no business seeking a major party’s nomination for the office.

Bush will speak next week on foreign policy in front of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and he previewed this speech by saying, “I won’t talk about the past. I’ll talk about the future.” That would be woefully inadequate for any presidential candidate of either party, but for another candidate named Bush just six years after the last Bush left office it is unacceptable. The conduct of foreign policy in the future has to take into account the experience of the recent past, and that includes the original decisions and debates related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can understand why Bush doesn’t want to talk about these things, but that’s no excuse. When he declared his interest in seeking the presidency, he gave up his chance to avoid commenting on these issues. If he can’t bring himself to say anything substantive about his brother’s record, that is just one more reason why voters should reject his candidacy.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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