President George W. Bush at war

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Almost a month has elapsed since terrorists attacked New York and Washington D.C. Since then, the American people has gone from shock and mourner into a state of fury, with a strong will for retaliation. A few days ago, the counter-strike begun, and the major cities of Afghanistan were bombed by American and British military planes. In the White House, the citadel of the crisis, president George W. Bush has intensified his role as the strong leader of not only the country, but of the world’s fight against terrorism and evil. This essay will focus on how Bush has coped with the extreme pressure that lies upon the shoulders of a chief-in-command on this level in times of war.

Bush’s presidential leadership following the terrorist attacks
When the hi-jacked airplanes hit the Twin Towers in New York, president Bush was reading stories for elementary school children in Florida. After getting the devastating message, he gave a somewhat shaky speech, addressing a worried nation. By in-deep briefing from his administration, polished by the savvy media trainers, he soon became more self-confident and decisive in his leadership role, at least as seen from the public’s perspective.

The objectives of his leadership has been multi-facetted. First of all, Bush has managed to unite the people of the United States of America. Like the party borders has suddenly seized to exist, Bush now has the support of more than 90 per cent of the American people. From the steaming sport on Manhattan, where the Twin Towers used to stand proud, a transcendental patriotism has emerged, spreading in all directions across the country. Flags ornament many houses, people donate blood and money in support of the victims and their families. “What doesn’t kill you make you stronger”, is an old proverb that proves to be right. Bush can take sufficient credit for this enormous public support, since he has been the voice of America to the rest of the world, after the atrocity on September 11. Bush’s speech writers have been working around the clock. In a number of touching speeches, not only is he exhorting his nation to come together; no, Bush also delivered clear messages to who ever executed the despicable terror actions, as well as invitations to the congress to work with him with ease.

If the first task was to unite the nation, the second has been to unite the world aroung a common action plan against terrorism. Bush has received a close to unanimous endorsement from other nations. Even Pakistan, the east neighbor of Afghanistan, has agreed to at some extent aid the American military. The EU as well as the UN expressed support for the actions; only American nemesis Saddam Hussein in Iraq condemned the attacks.
In the process of gathering the world in this great battle, Bush has had great use of his father George Bush’s political network, which stretches outside national borders, reaching many important political leaders. During long talks, he has exchanged intelligence, given evidence yet unknown to the public, and persuaded the international potentates to support USA.

Persuasion is the keyword in political leadership. In his book “Presidential Power”, Richard Neustadt argues that real executive power is all about the skill of persuasion, not the skill of strict command. That is, because in a presidential system, the president alone does not possess power – he possesses shared powers. The agreement of other institutions are important in many decisions. Neustadt continues saying that “the power to persuade is the power to bargain” (p. 32), which in this situation means that Bush may have heaps of IOUs to spread around Washington D.C. when the war is over.

In war, a slightly different set of commands override the old presidential rules. Military authority necessitate firm commands in order to obtain the exact desired result persuasion is too time-consuming and irresolute. The seemingly inevitable military retaliation is started on October 7th, now named “Enduring Freedom”. Leaders claim it to continue until terrorism is annihilated, not only in Afghanistan, but in all countries harboring terrorists or taking direct part in terrorist actions. In the initial face, Bush and his British colleague Tony Blair, use heavily armed air craft to bomb strategic military and terrorist goals. It is implied that ground troops probably will take part in the war in a later stage.

To return to the popularity boost Bush has experienced, a consequence of good leadership by is that the backing from the American people never has been stronger than right now. In accordance to empiric research, American presidents only gain popularity from international affairs, which is clear after the recent polls. Unfortunately for Bush, from here, the only way is down. During the Gulf War, Bush’s father was very popular among the people. But the war indirectly lead to a recession in the economy, and pessimism replaced optimism. Hopefully currently incumbent president Bush has learned from his father’s situation, and will pay careful attention to the economic situation at home while dropping Tomahawk bombs, along with ready-to-eat food packages, in the Middle East.

As a matter of leadership, the battle is fought on unknown terrain. Never before has the world united totally against a common enemy, if we not count imaginary movie-plots such as “Independence Day”, where the American president and the world fight together against hostile aliens.
Presidentialism in time of war

The presidential system itself sets up a certain framework for how president Bush can and cannot act. Even though, as mentioned before, parts of it do not apply to war time, the conduct is determined by presidentialism. America is a good example of the efficiency of presidentialism during war. Parliamentarism is less powerful when it comes to speaking to the nation (or the rest of the world) with a single voice. President Bush has carried a heavy workload on his shoulders, of course shared with US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld and other people in the administration. In a parliamentarism, the prime minister has less power in times of war, which brings a fairly new face into the media spotlights, the face of the Minister of Defense (or national equivalent). The public does not have as much confidence in their prime military leader because they don’t know him, his family and personality, as well as the people of a presidentialism know its president. This fact has definitely helped president Bush.

Normally, the presidential system is by some considered rigid, because of the almost ubiquitous party-politics problem between a dialectic Republic president and a Democratic Congress. The gridlock that usually appears has been surprisingly well-oiled in the aftermath of the terrorist actions. Bush expressed his gratitude over this in one of many speeches following September 11: “I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance.“ Quickly, he passed a 40 billion dollar bill to assist the victims of New York and their families. Once again, the set of rules change in times of war. Rigidity becomes flexibility, in a way compared to how the framers once thought the presidentialism would work.

The President of the USA holds, according to federalist paper no. 68, the right to create new offices when needed. He used this right recently by creating “Office of Homeland Security”, and appointed Tom Ridge as its leader. The office will have a number of responsibilities, including supervising intelligence to prevent future terrorists to occur. If another attack takes place, the Office of Homeland Security is to be in charge of the situation. Besides from Ridge, the Vice President Richard Cheney also works with the new office, which reports directly to president Bush.

Although the attacks were aimed at New York and Washington D.C., Bush has managed to make the people feel as if the entire USA was the target of the attack. The Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani has received nation-wide recognition and worked closely with president Bush, in the work with helping the city. In his role as president, Bush has not only began an extensive military attack on Afghanistan; he also presented a 320 million dollar bill to help Afghans, who are escaping their country, to survive the cold war winter. He has also used his presidential powers to take strategic actions aimed directly towards Osama bin Laden and his terrorist group al-Qaida. For example, Bush has frozen bin Laden’s economical assets (which exceed 250 million dollars), cut of his ability to technologically communicate, and tried to convince Muslims all over the world that the war is not directed towards them. While Bush by all means tries to avoid jihad, a holy war, bin Laden want exactly that to take place, and use incendiary rhetoric to motivate his followers.

Media plays an important role in this war, as in any presidentialism, at any time. When military forces were leaving towards distant locations in the Middle East, Bush exhorted them not to give specific details on where they where heading, in a way only similar to the loyal mystery-making surrounding popular TV-show “Survivor”, where no one among the massive press team reveals the winner in advance. Recently, Bush urged media to be critical in the broadcast of al-Quaida announcements, because they might contain hidden messages, directed to “sleeping” terrorists in the world.

George W. Bush has been very successful in his leadership during t...

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Inactive member [2001-12-14]   President George W. Bush at war
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