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No, Jeb Bush Won’t Be a Realist

Bush could hardly be making his agreement with his brother's policies more obvious.
jeb bush

Despite all the evidence proving the opposite, some people are claiming that Jeb Bush’s foreign policy will have more in common with that of his father:

One early indication suggests he is leaning toward his father’s more pragmatic and restrained philosophy. The former Florida governor is considering naming Meghan O’Sullivan as his top foreign-policy aide; several people familiar with the deliberations describe her as the front-runner for the post.

In many ways, the 45-year-old Ms. O’Sullivan, who now teaches at Harvard, bridges the two Bush worlds. She served as deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan for much of George W. Bush ’s second term and was heavily involved in carrying out his Iraq policies. But she wasn’t among the neoconservative advisers who drove the initial decision to invade Iraq, and she is more closely aligned with—and is being promoted by—the kind of pragmatists who dominated George H.W. Bush ’s presidency [bold mine-DL].

If that is supposed to be a sign that Bush’s foreign policy won’t be like his brother’s, what would be evidence that it will? Choosing someone “heavily involved” in carrying out George W. Bush’s policy in Iraq to be a “top foreign policy aide” is practically an endorsement of that policy. It certainly doesn’t suggest that Bush thinks there was very much wrong with how his brother’s administration handled things. O’Sullivan served as an assistant to the staggeringly incompetent Paul Bremer at the CPA in the early days of the occupation. She was an early advocate of the “surge,” which should make it clear that she isn’t as much of a “pragmatist” as this article would lead us to believe. Short of choosing a leading Iraq war booster, Bush could hardly be making his agreement with his brother’s policies more obvious.

No one should be fooled when someone claims that Jeb Bush is following in his father’s footsteps on foreign policy. George W. Bush indulged in some rhetoric about “humility” and realism as a candidate, too, and he relied on his father’s reputation on foreign policy to make up for the fact that he knew nothing about it. It turned out that there was no substance to Bush’s rhetoric, and the country endured the effects of one of the most incompetent administrations on foreign policy in our modern history. We have the benefit of that experience, so there is no excuse for falling for the same con twice.