December 1, 2018
Remembering George H.W. Bush
By David A. Wemer
During his time as president, Bush led the US response to the collapse of Communist Eastern Europe, signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Soviet Union, managed the US response to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and ordered Operation Just Cause to ensure the democratic succession of Guillermo Endara in Panama and Operation Desert Storm to counter Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.
Bush and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl received the Atlantic Council’s 2009 Distinguished International Leadership Award for their roles in bringing about a peaceful end to the Cold War and German reunification. Characteristically self-effacing in his acceptance speech, he said: “I would simply like to salute the capable men and women I had at my side during four years of genuine change and challenge. Together we not only upheld the public trust placed in us; we also helped to leave the world a safer and more secure place than we found it.”
The Atlantic Council community is reacting to Bush’s passing. Here’s a selection of tributes.*
Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, chairman emeritus, Atlantic Council Board of Directors and International Advisory Board. He served as National Security Advisor to both Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.
On Twitter: “The world has lost a great leader; this country has lost one of its best; and I have lost one of my dearest friends. I am heartbroken.”
Madeleine K. Albright, member of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board and former US secretary of state.
On Twitter: “Today I join all Americans and people across the world in honoring the extraordinary life and legacy of President George Herbert Walker Bush. Although we are only a quarter century removed from his time in office, I believe history’s verdict to be clear: he was one of the finest international statesmen to ever to serve our country as Commander in Chief.
“As president, he steered America through a time of great promise and peril, overseeing the peaceful end of the Cold War and leading our coalition to victory in the Gulf War. His mastery of foreign affairs was built on his service in key national security roles—as a naval aviator in World War II, as America’s representative in Beijing, as ambassador to the UN, and as Director of Central Intelligence.
“George H.W. Bush exemplified the values and commitment to service which made his generation great, and which enabled democracy to prevail over Fascism and Communism. I was honored to benefit from his advice and to call him a friend.
“He will be dearly missed, but I hope that his life will continue to inspire Americans and freedom-loving people all over the world. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Bush family at this time of sorrow and remembrance.”
Barry Pavel, senior vice president, Arnold Kanter chair, and director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council.
“President George H.W. Bush managed a tectonic transition in geopolitics in a manner that few other such leaders in history have ever done—he helped to end the Cold War era of major-power crises and global ideological struggle without a shot being fired. For this landmark achievement alone, he should go down in history as one of the greatest statesmen ever.
“He also served as a role model of presidential character that helped to sustain American political discourse and lift both our morals and our ideals. His presidency greatly strengthened American security, prosperity, and leadership. In short, President Bush made the world a better place.”
John Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. He served as the US ambassador to Ukraine from 2003 to 2006.
“Bush the elder was the last strong foreign policy president to grace the White House. He handled the end of the Cold War, especially the German question, brilliantly. He also understood the limits of American power. His handling of Iraqi seizure of Kuwait was highly competent. The full wisdom of his policy only became fully evident when his son blundered into Iraq.
“Mr. Bush demonstrated great skill in the treacherous waters of Arab-Israeli peacemaking. But not everything he did was right. He was slow to see the end of the Soviet Union. His less than visionary ‘Chicken Kiev’ speech was perhaps the low point of a strong foreign policy record.”
Thomas L. Blair, Atlantic Council board director. He is chairman of Blair Companies.
“Bush 41 was in the mold of many of America’s Founding Fathers. He was dedicated to doing the best for his country and the best for his countrymen, while at all times being a gentleman that would never allow himself to acknowledge his superior traits and gifts.”
David A. Wemer is assistant director, editorial, at the Atlantic Council. Follow him on Twitter @DavidAWemer.
*Please check back for more tributes.