Why did Bush say, "We're not into nation building"?

It may have been Rumsfeld and/or Cheney who actually articulated this sentiment, but it seems to fly in the face of the central theme of Bush’s foreign policy and the neocon agenda of spreading democracy around the world.

So what excactly were they thinking?

Maybe he was factoring in the nation destroying?

That if Clinton did it, it must be bad. You know, the driving spirit behind Bush’s decisionmaking in most matters.

There is still a strong strain of thought in hard-right circles that we had no business going into Yugoslavia and ending the genocide there. The strong reaction to Clinton’s doing it anyway let Bush use it as a campaign item, confirming to the isolationists that he was on their side.

Reality just got in the way of their ideology. It’s just that simple.

When did Bush (or Cheney or Rumsfeld) say that?

When campaigning IIRC.

Bush said, “we’re not in the business of nation building.” As close as I can remember. It was in regard to Afghanistan, and he said it right after the invasion.

Here’s a ref to it:

He was trying to make the point that we shouldn’t worry about his military project becoming a morass (like Vietnam), because he was going to have a clear military objective, limit the scope, and not get entrenched.

Obviously, he was idiotic, and, reflective of many of his administration’s strategies, the policy was announced before it had been thought through. He was eating his words within a month.

In 2000, or 2004?

The neocon assumption seems to be, “nation-building” is unnecessary; when you knock out the evil bad naughty dictator, democracy just happens.

2000 IIRC; my memory’s vague on that however.

It was in one of the debates with Gore in 2000. He didn’t exaclty say “we’re not into nation building”, but something close (empahasis added):

John, he’d said many similar things during the campaign, but he said it pretty much word for word talking about invading Afghanistan. Looking for the exact quote still.


OK. I didn’t remember seeing that and assumed we were talking about the debate. I think Bush is right-- we’re not into nation building. Witness the mess that Iraq is right now. Afghanistan might be a little better, but it’s got a long ways to go.

Well if he said it in 2000, that is before 9-11-01. And I would still agree with his statment, we are not into nation building, we are in the war against Islamic fundementalism, the act of removing from power and bringing to trail Sadam Husain and creating a democracy in the M.E. is just a side effect.

Funny, that. Islamic fundamentalists were never a threat to control Iraq until the US came in.

Is this trial worth the cost?

A side effect yet to happen, if ever.

I can’t quote an exact date, but I seem to recall Bush stating repeatedly that he was not into nation building.

That is not a side effect, it is a side track. Hussein had nothing to do with Islamic Fundamentalism, so an attack on Iraq was a (costly) distraction from the main war.

Yea, Saddam was a bad person, but he was far worse to the followers Islamic fundementalists then the US will ever be. If our real intentions in Iraq were to hurt the fundementalists, we should’ve just sent Saddam a billion dollars worth of weapons and he probably would’ve finished them off in his own country and then tried to take out the Mullahs in Iran. I don’t think even Bush has tried to justify the Iraq war by saying it was part of a war against Islamic fundementalism.

Bush put forward his opposition to nation building as one of the key differences between his and Gore’s stances on National Security back in 2000. IIRC, one of the Republican arguments was that Clinton had “worn down” the US army by fighting non-essential wars in Yugoslavia. Bush also was still tied to his fathers legacy, under whose administration the Powell Doctorine had been formed to justify not persuing the destruction of the Iraqi regime after the first Gulf War.

Honestly its strange that Bush seemed to precieve the dangers of open ended occupations in 2000, yet was still caught so flat footed when Iraq slid from bad to worse.

To be fair, he listed removing SH form power as a separate item from fighting against Islamic fundamentalism. But I agree that any attempt to link the two is absurd.

The quote people are thinking of is probably the one mocked to such good effect in this Daily Show clip: Bush vs. Bush. John Stewart “moderates” a debate between President Bush and Governor Bush about whether we should be engaged in nation-building in Iraq. Unfortunately, the Daily Show doesn’t indicate where the various quotes come from, but at time index 2:36 of the clip, we hear the following. It looks like it comes from one of the 2000 debates.