Will the real George W. please stand up? After seven years of fearlessly confronting evil, both rhetorically and militarily, the Bush administration in Washington seems to have faded away, replaced instead by a meek shadow of its former self.
Firm resolve has given way to disappointing frailty, as the shape and direction of US foreign policy increasingly resembles something taken straight out of Bill Clinton's playbook.
Across the board, on nearly every major issue of the day, from Iran to Syria to North Korea, the Bush administration is in retreat, abandoning the principled stands of yesteryear and replacing them with the unscrupulous and inexplicable policies now being pursued by the Department of State.
The turnabout is breathtaking in its scope, rivaled only perhaps by Britney Spears' rapid descent from pop superstar to tabloid curiosity. But unlike the blonde starlet's fate, this is something that actually matters.
Take, for example, the donor conference held in Paris this week, where the nations of the world unashamedly gathered to prop up the corrupt, incompetent and ineffectual Palestinian regime headed by Mahmoud Abbas.
Leading the charge, the US pledged more than $550 million in aid to the Palestinians in 2008. But while American diplomats were busy filling out checks to Abbas, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza continued to target Israeli civilians. On Sunday, they fired a rocket which struck an Israeli home in Kibbutz Zikim and wounded a 2-year old child. Needless to say, neither the toddler nor his parents will be receiving any Western assistance.
Watching the news on television, I thought back to a bright summer day five years ago, on June 1, 2002, when a man named George W. Bush gave a stirring speech to the graduating class at the West Point military academy. In clear and unequivocal terms, the president said, "All nations that decide for aggression and terror will pay a priceâ€¦ We will lift this dark threat from our country and from the world." Then I thought to myself: just what "price" have the Palestinians been made to pay for using violence and terror against the Jewish state? Instead of paying a price, they are being rewarded for their actions with American largesse and support. Isn't that exactly what Bill Clinton sought to do when he convened the Camp David talks at the end of his presidency?
THEN THERE is North Korea. On December 1, Bush took the unusual step of sending a personal letter to Pyongyang's thug-in-chief Kim Jong Il, essentially pleading with him to tell the truth and to disclose all of his country's nuclear programs by the end of the year.
In exchange, the archaic Stalinist regime can expect to receive American recognition and, of course, large infusions of aid.
So once again I turned to Bush's 2002 speech, and there it was in black-and-white: "We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them."
Yet that is precisely what Bush seems ready to do. He is putting his faith in Kim Jong-Il's promises, just as Clinton did when he signed a similar deal with Pyongyang in October 1994 which later proved worthless.
And what of the regimes in Iran and Syria, which have aided and abetted insurgents in Iraq in their efforts to kill American servicemen? In both instances, the Bush administration has adopted a policy of diplomacy and talk, rather than action. Indeed, Damascus was even invited to take part in the Annapolis conference, granting further legitimacy to Syrian President Bashar Assad and his repressive regime.
Who said that killers of Americans have anything to fear? What a sharp contrast to that speech five summers ago, when the president enunciated a clear moral vision underlying his policy, which came to be known as the Bush Doctrine. He said at the time, "There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it."
Sadly, Washington now seems all too ready to yield on matters of principle. Or, as former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton told the German magazine Der Spiegel this week, American foreign policy "is in free fall. The president is acting against his own judgment and instincts under the influence of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice."
The result has effectively been a quiet coup, as George W. Clinton replaces Bush. And that spells trouble, big trouble, in the War on Terror - not only for Israel, but for America too.
It is not that the Bush Doctrine is dead - it most certainly isn't. But the way things are going of late, it sure seems to be in need of resuscitation.