Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has seen his poll numbers collapse before his very eyes because, despite doing everything correct to get the nomination in other election cycles, it hasn’t worked this time. When he started his campaign he focussed on positivity and trying to enthuse people with a message of unity. Unfortunately he didn’t realise that in order to execute this message you need to be charismatic, and you need to fighting a normal election (which this is not). Bush’s debate performance was actually the best to date however at certain points he was bullied by the other candidates and didn’t really make an impact.
Bush’s first question was regarding ISIS, to which he responded with a shopping list of things he would do including a no-fly zone, safe zones for refugees and for improving anti-ISIS military forces, putting together a coalition with Arab nations to attack the terrorist group and arming the Kurds. In terms of policies, these should be applauded as some of the more popular candidates (Trump) blustered and ramped up the rhetoric rather than suggesting any solutions. However on the actual substance of them I mostly disagree.
A no-fly zone is a terrible idea because, as has been shown in recent weeks with Turkey shooting down a Russian plane, if Russia violates the no-fly zone would you shoot it down. Also with what authority would the US impose a no-fly zone; Russia was asked by President Assad to bomb ISIS so you are ignoring the wishes of the government of a UN sovereign state.
Safe zones within Syria for refugees I have no immediate objection to, but I do recognise that this is essentially a proxy so that the US won’t have to accept any refugees. A coalition of Arab countries to fight ISIS is also a fine idea however Bush later in the evening said that the US should be leading the coalition which defeats one of the objectives of the strategy. The reason people on the Left talk about the need for an Arab coalition is because it challenges ISIS’ narrative of ‘the West are imperialists and crusading infidels’. If this Arab coalition is led by a Western country, like America, the ISIS narrative isn’t undermined.
Furthermore I’m not opposed to the idea of arming the Kurds either. My previous hostility to arming people, as has been shown by arming the Mujahadeen against the Soviet Union, is that Western powers would end up fighting these groups. The reason I believe that this doesn’t apply to the Kurds is their only long-term geo-political goal is an independent Kurdistan. Indeed the PKK are a group of left-wing guerillas and they are helping the Peshmerga to fight against ISIS.
On balance, therefore, Bush’s suggestions are a mixed bag of perfectly sane ideas and things that would make the situation much worse. Considering that his brother’s suggestions were all bad ideas we can only say that this a positive step forward for this generation of the Bush family.
His next comments were immediately after these policy suggestions, in which the former Florida Governor argued that Trump’s proposal, to ban all Muslims from entering the country, was not serious and accurately pointed out that many of the US’ allies against ISIS (e.g Saudi Arabia, the Kurds, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon) were Muslims. This response received a lot of applause from the audience which is not surprising as lost of the GOP base, despite supporting some incredibly right-wing candidates, are not actual fascists.
But the most interesting part of these comments was the crowd’s reaction to Trumps response, in which he said that Bush was only being mean to him because his campaign was failing. This was meet with a surprising amount of booing, which was thoroughly satisfying.Indeed later in the evening Bush got another applause line for attacking Trump because he said that “you can’t insult your way to the Presidency”. When Trump tired to come back at him, he was booed by the audience.
Because the debate was about foreign policy and national security, Bush was once again asked about ISIS to which he responded: “We need to destroy ISIS…we need a military that is second to none”. This statement implies that the US military is currently rivalled in its power; let me allay these concerns by once again pointing out the US military is the strongest and most deadly fighting force in the history of humanity. If you like hyperbole then here is one for you: the US military is the strongest military force in the solar system, it has the capability to destroy the entire human race tens of times over. The US military doesn’t need to be increased in size.
Bush later on went to argue that the lesson from the 2003 Iraq War was that “you need a strategy to get in, and a strategy to get out”. For some reason Bush is one of the only people in the world who thinks that the starting the Iraq War was a good idea, and somehow believed that the problems in Iraq were Obama’s fault. Problems in Iraq have been largely sectarian and to argue that sectarian conflicts were Obama’s fault is ludicrous as the Sunni-Shia split in Islam occurred in 632 CE, which I believe was before Obama was President. Even if you ignore this fact the other conclusion is that if Obama was wrong to leave Iraq, when should the US have left? Should the US still be there? Should the US ever leave? What would have been the alternative?
The former Florida Governor’s final comments were about cyber security, in which he said that the private sector and the government should co-ordinate efforts against threats including ISIS, North Korea and China.
To conclude Bush’s debate performance was much better than before and was able to land a few punches on Donald Trump, which the audience seemed to appreciate. Indeed some of his policy suggestions were acceptable to a large numbers of the electorate, however this is largely irrelevant. Bush’s current campaign would have been sufficient to win the Republican nomination in 2012 but this election cycle has shown that the GOP base doesn’t want an establishment Republican. The base wants an outsider, or someone who they think is an outsider; somebody who is the son of one former president and the brother of another former president is not an outsider.