They say that the first year after the death of a spouse is crucial for the surviving partner. It is often the case with couples that have been married long, that when one passes away, the other follows usually within the year. The phenomenon is common enough to have a name: Broken Heart Syndrome. George and Barbara Bush were married for 73 years, and the former president of the United States has joined his wife less than six months after she died.
It is often hard to imagine politicians as people – as humans with feelings, families, sincerity, weaknesses, desire – the works. It is rare enough to see that kind of empathy for politicians locally, and so trying to empathise with a foreign, war mongering president might be impossible.
Yet George H W Bush, the 41st president of the United States and the man that oversaw the end of the Cold War, was human enough to die of a broken heart, even if his résumé may make him seem almost superhuman. A war hero with footage of him surviving a plane crash during the World War II to boot, Bush came to the office of president having already been ambassador to the United Nations (UN), followed by a stint as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and finally as vice president to Ronald Reagan.
Smart, well versed in international politics, experienced, charming but strong, and sharp as a tack, Bush might just have been one of the best American presidents of all times. The last to sign a truly bipartisan bargain, and the proponent of a masterful foreign policy, he was what Americans look for in a president. But the stars seemed disturbed, and the man who started his presidency with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dissolution of the USSR, and a record high 90 per cent approval rating, would not manage to win a second term in office.
Almost a decade after he had left the White House, his son would go on to have two terms as the president. Other than their last name and a striking resemblance, the two shared very little. It was a classic case of an imperious father and the son never was quite able to keep up. The generations did share one other crucial similarity, however, which was that both fought a war with Saddam Hussein in Iraq. What the senior Bush started, the junior Bush would end, leaving in their wake a field of death and destruction.
Despite his humanness, the Muslim world will not remember the 41st president in kind words. His son even less so, and with all that has happened since either of them were at the world’s helm, the name Bush, who cares senior or junior, will be one that emotes little other than hate and anger. While it may have been a great victory for him at home, and the optics of Operation Desert Storm historic, it was US appeasement and later US aggression that led to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait followed by the great first step in the continued havoc that reigns in Iraq. The Gulf War was an American problem given an American solution, and the collateral of it all just another in the many collaterals that the United States has created.
Yet Bush was one among many presidents, the ninth since the World War II and the dropping of the atomic bomb. Four have followed him since, and American policy towards the world has not changed. At most there have been changes in tone and rhetoric, changes of principle and even secular Democrats like Obama or Clinton have affected the same policy as hardline conservatives such as the Bushes or Trump.
How history judges Bush is yet to be seen. He was no revolutionary like Castro to be absolved in life, and he was no enigma like Kennedy to be revered in death. Instead, he was just another man that lived, served, led, and died. There are many lessons to take from Bush, none of them majestic or glorious, but drab and real, much like the man was. Dedication to duty, bravery, and dignity in defeat, chief among them.