As a nation, we mourn the passing of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States of America. His career included serving as a Congressman, Director of the CIA, Ambassador to China, and Chairman of the Republican National Committee. He is being praised as a moderate president of gracious purpose for the use of power. His restraint of aggressive attitude is not to be confused with a lack of commitment to a strong moral code. He believed in a cause, but it did not dominate his personality. Why?
Because George H.W. Bush was relational.
The most important things to “41,” as he was fondly called later in life, was first his family and then his friends. He did expect loyalty if you were part of his team. But he had respect for the views and values of others. He was gentle, soft-spoken, and had a knack for expressing thoughts in short sentences. Some who dealt with him politically questioned his level of intensity. The President would rather leave a room than engage in acrimonious discourse. He was the quintessential gentleman.
He served our country in extraordinary times as President from 1988 through 1992. In 1989, Bulgaria declared its independence from the Communist Party of the USSR. Few knew at the time that this was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. In 1991, Ukraine declared itself a sovereign state and independent of Soviet influence. At the same time, China was emerging from behind the Great Wall. The Tiananmen Square massacre was a resulting tragedy of the turbulent transition.
What commentators and historians are primarily discussing during this week of national mourning is the U.S. rescue of Kuwait from the invasion by Iraq and Saddam Hussein. This military operation, commonly referred to as Desert Storm, was a measured response to the violation of rule of law between sovereign states. President Bush was criticized at the time for driving Hussein out of Kuwait but leaving him in power of Iraq. History may treat this decision more favorably as conflict in the region continues.
What is not being given enough attention and accord is President Bush’s handling of the Ukrainian effort to become independent of the Soviet Union. Ukraine, up until 1991, was an area of Russia. It was not a sovereign state. The Ukrainian people had a distinct history, culture, and language. But they could only claim a seat of government for two years from 1919 to 1921. They were, in effect, a historical principality.
There were nuclear missile silos on Ukrainian territory. A major network of gas pipelines crossed Ukraine. Ukraine successfully becoming an independent state was complicated both politically and structurally. Soviet generals advised to bring Ukraine back in line with military force. Why?
Because they were primarily cause-driven.
To the Soviet generals, relationships have little value, only objectives matter. You either agree with the national policy or you are forced into compliance. The word on the street in Kiev during the crisis was, “remember Czechoslovakia in 1956.” Then a rebellion was put down in a bloody confrontation.
I had been dispatched to Kiev to aid in the elections for the independence of Ukraine. My sponsor was the National Endowment for Democracy, a U.S. quasi-government foundation. I reported in part to the U.S. State Department. During the conduct of the elections, Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union, sent tanks into the streets of Kiev to intimidate the citizens to abandon the electoral process.
There were no diplomatic offices in Kiev. It was considered an outpost. I traveled to Moscow to meet with the U.S. attaché for Ukraine to inquire of U.S. foreign policy on the Ukrainian crisis. I informed the United States that I did not believe the Ukrainian people would stand down. If the Soviets fired on the population, revolutionwould erupt.
President Bush’s response was to openly defy President Gorbachev. He informed his Soviet counterpart that he would lead a coalition of Western countries to isolate the Soviet Union from the community of nations. Any attempt to suppress democracy would be met with protracted diplomatic protocol to recognize the Ukrainian people’s right to declare independence. President Gorbachev decided not to engage the tanks against peaceful citizens. Why?
He was more relational in purpose than cause-driven.
After the successful elections for independence and the fall of the Soviet Union, records of internal Soviet leaders’ discussions and debate have been published to reveal that the generals were ready to go to war. This was their advice even if the U.S. threatened military action. There were State Department leaders in the U.S. who advised President Bush to abandon the Ukrainian plebiscite. This advice was offered not because they feared war, but because they were cause-driven to maintain the world order as it currently existed at that time.
President Bush made his decision not to abandon the Ukrainians in their time of need on the basis that all people deserve to be free. However, he did not threaten to go to war.
Two relational leaders, who believed in causes and creeds, but were not willing to force such causes upon another people at the price of bloodshed, resolved the conflict without major loss of life. It is interesting to consider the pressure that both men were under. President Gorbachev survived a military coup. President Bush survived for only one term. Both men should be lauded for putting people first.
The passing of a person’s life is always a time for reflection and mourning. The timing of George Bush’s passing during the beginning of Advent season is particularly impacting.
Jesus Christ was a man who believed in relations first as a way to express the cause of His Father’s Word. He loved all people the same. Yet, He never compromised the cause, the purpose, and the commandments of His Father’s creation. His relationship with individuals and his cause were not separate but unified in the purpose of His message.
In this season of Christmas, we must be reminded that we are all in this system of things together. It is not only appropriate but critical for diversityof thought. In respect for each other’s moral values, we seek the application of eternal principles that bind us by generations.
In respecting each other and honestly developing relationships, we aspire to establish societal peace through the process of relationalcause.
My name is Marc Nuttle and this is what I believe.
What do you believe?