George HW Bush, the 41st president of the United States, passed away on Friday at the age of 94. During his tenure, he followed the end of the Cold War and aspired to secure American dominance in a world of change.
In a three-decade political career, Bush was a Texas congressman, US envoy to China and the UN, as well as CIA director and vice president of Ronald Reagan (40th American President).
He also devoted much of his attention to foreign policy and was widely criticized for neglecting domestic issues.
Gulf War in 1991
The 41st US president has gone through turbulent times, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, NAFTA negotiations and many others, but the 1991 Gulf War is considered the centerpiece of his presidency and what he is mostly remembered for.
The Gulf War was a major US-led offensive against Iraq and its president Saddam Hussein in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The US-led coalition, which included several Arab countries, sent 670,000 troops, of which 425,000 came from the United States.
Elimination of Saddam’s nuclear potential
George HW Bush announced that his goal in the war was to oust Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait, “eliminating” their nuclear potential and destroying their chemical weapons facilities, as well as artillery and tanks. Despite having mostly achieved this, the leader was not able to eradicate them completely.
His son, George W. Bush, claimed a decade after the Iraqi ruler had chemical weapons and was developing a nuclear program – a claim that was used as the main pretext for invading Iraq in 2003 and proven to be a lie.
The 1991 war led the US to increase its influence and military presence in the region and to establish a network of military bases throughout the Gulf, causing anti-American sentiment in the country to peak.
The New World Order
The Gulf War was seen as the first test of the new world order that Bush proclaimed in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, turning the world system into unipolar.
To all the challenges that confront this region of the world, there is no single solution, no solely American answer. But we can make a difference. America will work tirelessly as a catalyst for positive change.
But we cannot lead a new world abroad if, at home, it’s politics as usual on American defense and diplomacy. It’s time to turn away from the temptation to protect unneeded weapons systems and obsolete bases. It’s time to put an end to micro-management of foreign and security assistance programs, micro-management that humiliates our friends and allies and hamstrings our diplomacy. It’s time to rise above the parochial and the pork barrel, to do what is necessary, what’s right and what will enable this nation to play the leadership role required of us.
The consequences of the conflict in the Gulf reach far beyond the confines of the Middle East. Twice before in this century, an entire world was convulsed by war. Twice this century, out of the horrors of war hope emerged for enduring peace. Twice before, those hopes proved to be a distant dream, beyond the grasp of man.
Until now, the world we’ve known has been a world divided – a world of barbed wire and concrete block, conflict and cold war.
Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order. In the words of Winston Churchill, a “world order” in which “the principles of justice and fair play … protect the weak against the strong …” A world where the United Nations, freed from cold war stalemate, is poised to fulfil the historic vision of its founders. A world in which freedom and respect for human rights find a home among all nations.
The Gulf war put this new world to its first test, and, my fellow Americans, we passed that test.
According to the late president, a new world order would mean collective security in the framework of international cooperation and the collapse of the principles of the Cold War era. His speech came almost ten years before the September 11 attacks, which marked a watershed for US and international relations.