President Bush is not the "amiable dunce" his critics like to think he is, an expert on American foreign policy said Friday.
Instead, Bush is a take-control president who avoids getting bogged down in details and who's not overly concerned with how other nations view the United States, said James Lindsay, a vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"He understands, better than most, what American power can accomplish," said Lindsay, who's also a former director for global issues and multilateral affairs on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.
Bush's management style and thinking, Lindsay said, are assets because they have allowed the president to avoid the "paralysis by analysis" that tended to plague Bill Clinton. But they also subject the United State to being seen as a reckless, uncaring bully.
It's not surprising, Lindsay said, that in foreign policy circles the Bush administration is often described as "all sharp elbows."
Lindsay was the keynote speaker Friday at "One Year After 'Victory' in Iraq: International and Domestic Perspectives," a forum at the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University.
The forum continues today with an 8:30 a.m. keynote address, "George Bush and the Decision to Go to War," by James Pfiffner, a professor of public policy at George Mason University.
Panel discussions, "Iraq in Presidential Politics, 2004" and "Security, Liberty and the Patriot Act in the Post-War Era," begin at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively.
On other topics, Lindsay said:
- If terrorists attack the United States again, Bush's invasion of Iraq in response to al-Qaida and Sept. 11 has set an unintended precedent.
"The question then becomes, 'OK, what country do we hit next?'" Lindsay said.
- Second-guessing Bush's failure to heed earlier warnings of potential attacks is less than fair.
"If you've ever seen those intelligence assessments, you know they're filled with caveats because everybody is afraid of being wrong," Lindsay said. "If you put in enough caveats, you'll never be wrong. It's maddening."
- The war in Iraq is not going well.
"If Iraq was like the cat with nine lives," Lindsay said, "I'd say we've used up about eight of them."
About 100 people attended the Friday sessions.