Here's another Bush setting Republican Middle East policy

Here's another Bush setting Republican Middle East policy
Comment: Even if he loses the race to the White House, Jeb Bush's ideas for a messianic US role in the region chime strongly with party donors, writes Tom Charles.
5 min read
02 Nov, 2015
Despite his tiny chances of victory, Bush's ideas will likely become Republican policy [Getty]

The contest to become Republican candidate in 2016's US presidential election is in full swing - but Jeb Bush's bid to be the third Bush in the White House is in freefall, according to polls.

But despite his apparent failure to win over GOP members, his Middle East policy is worth considering - as it is likely to be the approximate regional policy adopted by any Republican president.

Donald Trump and Ben Carson continue to be the unlikely frontrunners in the race, but their stated Middle East strategies have appeared off-the-cuff and at times without logic.   

Bush has seized upon Trump's naiveté, writing: "Let's be clear: Donald Trump simply doesn't know what he's talking about. And his bluster overcompensates for a shocking lack of knowledge on the complex national-security challenges that will confront the next president of the United States."

Unlike his more popular rivals, Bush has set out a clear vision for American influence in the Middle East.

     Unlike his more popular rivals, Bush has set out a clear vision for American influence in the Middle East

He has identified what he sees as the main problems in the region and has set out solutions to address them. 

Bush sees the rise of the Islamic State group - "spreading like a pandemic" - as the most alarming problem right now. He has lamented the fact that "the radicals' caliphate exists as an actual place", referring to its presence across two Middle Eastern states.

George W Bush's younger brother views the taking of Mosul and Fallujah by IS as the tragic loss of "cities that American and allied troops died to liberate".

Jeb is loyal to Brother George's Iraq policy, and criticises the "incrementalism" and "half-measures" of President Obama. He believes the US withdrawal from Iraq was "premature… the fatal error" that brought about IS.

He is also similar to his brother in his religiosity: "In the Middle East today, we are witnessing a mass persecution and exodus of the followers of Jesus Christ."

Bush sees that in the place of Christianity, IS has emerged, with the candidate quoting Ronald Reagan by describing the movement as "the focus of evil in the modern world".

"Christians in the Arab world are under threat" - read Abdullah Turkmani's commentary here 

A more militaristic approach to tackling IS is the method Bush advocates for defeating the group in Iraq.

He proposes working with Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to boost the Iraqi security forces, supported by an intensified US air war. Additionally, US soldiers and marines would be embedded with the Iraqi forces, and the Kurds would be supplied with "decisive military power".

As well as employing American military might, Bush wants to work with the owners of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to end "the veneer of glamour" he thinks these online platforms give to terrorism.

Besides blaming Obama, Bush identifies Iran and its allies, Assad and Hizballah, as being behind the emergence of IS, and views Iran as the second great enemy in the region after IS.

Vehemently opposed to the Iran nuclear deal, he has vowed to reverse the deal if elected, along with putting an end to "the policy of treating the Mullahs in Iran as a stabilising force in the region when in fact they are deceitful dictators causing nothing but instability".

The focus of Bush's Middle East rhetoric is the need for the US to take command. He cites Syria as an example of "what ruin and suffering can follow when America doesn't lead". The ongoing Syrian crisis is a threat to America's "friends and our interests", and he makes a leap of logic to state that "defeating IS requires defeating Assad".

The Bush solution in Syria is strikingly different to his more hands-on approach to Iraq.

A unified force of "moderates" should be created and trained. "Assad-free zones" and "IS-free zones" would be created to allow the "moderate" fighters to take control of the country.

Declaring Syria a no-fly zone will further negate Assad and curb Iran's influence, Bush argues. Specific details of how Bush would deal with Russia's increasing involvement are lacking, although he has suggested a more confrontational approach to Putin.

     A messianic view of America's role in the region lies behind Bush's Middle East ideology

A messianic view of America's role in the region lies behind Bush's Middle East ideology, combined with a total denial of the role the US has played in generating instability, repression and terror:

"For generations, American-led alliances, American diplomacy, and American credibility deterred aggression and defended the peace… this is the work that America is in the world to do."

His views and policies will become the Republicans' doctrine, even if Bush loses out to a rival candidate who appears less sophisticated in their wielding of power.

A recent New York Times report revealed that half of the funding for the campaigns of both Republican and Democrat candidates have been provided by just 158 families, with all but 20 of these funding Republican candidates.

Most donors made their fortunes in the financial or oil and gas industries. With their ambitions largely dependent on such support, the candidates take an approach to US Middle East policy that reflects the concerns of their backers - namely securing Washington's hegemony over the Middle East's natural resources.

Bush's vision is one of a rapacious USA, supporting repressive regimes and occupations to further the interests of a certain sector of American society.

This view of the world is tried and tested, accepted by the business elite - and is veritably nuanced compared with the amateurish analysis espoused by Trump and Carson.

Expect it to prevail if a Republican wins the race to the White House in 2016.

Tom Charles is a London-based writer, editor and literary agent. He previously worked in the UK parliament, including as a lobbyist for Palestinian rights. He has contributed to Jadaliyya and the Journal of Palestinian Refugee Studies.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.