During Obama's inaugural ceremony, a scene rarely witnessed in American political history occurred: As soon as the outgoing President Bush appeared on stage, he was greeted by the boos of a million spectators. When Bush's name came up in Obama's inaugural address, the audience booed him again. Of course, the majority of the people in the audience were Democrats, and so their farewell jeers were not surprising. But even to the average American voter, eight years of President Bush's domestic, foreign and economic policies have greatly wounded the country.
In the international community, people are most concerned with - and most directly affected by - the legacy of Bush's foreign policy. Over the past eight years, where has the Bush Doctrine had a decisive role in international affairs? Has Bush's foreign policy brought America greater safety or prosperity? What was Bush's greatest policy error? What were the greatest successes of his foreign policy?
President Bush's greatest foreign policy failure was undoubtedly the Iraq War, a war that violated international laws and norms and greatly deteriorated relations between America and its European allies, while tarnishing America's image abroad. Most importantly, due to the incompetence of the Bush administration, the war pushed Iraq into domestic chaos. Conflict between Sunni and Shiite factions, Al Qaeda's campaign against American forces, and a guerrilla war waged by Iraqi resistance forces left Iraq completely out of control. Although the situation has improved dramatically over the past year, America has already paid a heavy price: more than 4,000 soldiers killed in action, tens of thousands of soldiers seriously wounded, and close to $1 trillion in expenditures.
If Bush's war has caused "trauma" for America, then Bush's foreign policy has inflicted it with even worse internal injuries. Since the core of the Bush Doctrine is unilateralism (a euphemism for New Imperialism), America has, for eight years, systematically violated international norms and its own deeply held liberal values. From the use of torture on suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and the establishment of "black sites" to its unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Agreement, the Bush administration displayed not only its contempt for international law and international public opinion, but also a failure to consider the short-term consequences of its behavior for America's reputation and "soft power" in the international community.
People generally think that President Bush's greatest mistake was the invasion of Iraq. But to the international community, the greatest error of Bush's eight years was his inattention to climate change - the gravest threat to mankind's existence - impeding the international community's efforts to control CO2 emissions, achieve consensus, and lead the way toward solutions. Because of the American government, the world lost eight precious years. In the long run, the negative effects of Bush's stance on climate change will eventually outweigh the harm done to the world's peace and prosperity due to his war in Iraq.
Of course, Bush's foreign policy has not been completely consistent for eight years. Generally speaking, his most serious mistakes were committed in his first term. In his second term, Bush revised his foreign policy. Led by neoconservative ideology in his first term, Bush's foreign policy in his second term was relatively pragmatic and flexible. In dealing with nuclear issues in Iran and North Korea, Bush basically adopted the pragmatism of Condoleezza Rice in order to avoid committing even more serious mistakes.
In contrast, Bush's Asia policy has been one of the few bright spots of his eight years in office. American relations with China, Japan and India have been not only stable and healthy, but have experienced significant development. Although he viewed China as a strategic rival when he first took office, after 9/11 his China policy became more pragmatic. Regarding Taiwan, Bush showed rare prudence, caution and maturity in dealing with trade and political issues. If he had dealt with other key diplomatic problems as successfully as he did with Asian affairs, then the audience would not have booed Bush at Obama's inauguration, but would instead have welcomed him with applause.