Jeb Bush Calls for Expanding U.S. Influence Abroad

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Former Florida governor acknowledges ‘mistakes made in Iraq’ under his brother.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, seeking to distinguish himself from his father and brother, said Wednesday the U.S. should pursue a strategy of “liberty diplomacy,” using American influence to gradually shape global affairs.

For the first time since Mr. Bush declared his interest as a Republican Party presidential candidate, he acknowledged “mistakes made in Iraq’’ under his brother, former President George W. Bush, while also lauding him for sending more U.S. troops to Iraq in 2007 to stem rising violence.

Mr. Bush also said he supported the National Security Agency’s collection of phone records, while blasting U.S. negotiations with Iran and calling for more spending to rebuild the military—positions more in line with hawkish elements of the GOP.

As a likely 2016 candidate, Mr. Bush has to navigate the legacies of his father and brother, drawing on their insight to politics and policy-making while keeping distance from their less-successful endeavors.

“I love my brother. I love my dad,” Mr. Bush said in his speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “But I’m my own man, and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences.”

One of the biggest hurdles for Mr. Bush is public unease with the Bush name and political dynasties. That vulnerability is particularly pronounced in foreign policy, given the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started under his brother’s administration.

“As you might know, I’ve also been fortunate to have a father and brother who helped shape America’s foreign policy from the Oval Office,” he said. “I recognize that, as a result, my views will often be held up in comparison to theirs.”

Mr. Bush went on to define his own view as “liberty diplomacy,” what he described as a U.S. commitment to stand up for personal liberty around the world. The idea is that personal liberty brings political progress. “Time and time again we have learned that if we withdraw from the defense of liberty elsewhere,” he said, “the battle eventually comes to us, anyway.”

Democrats said the speech echoed his brother’s administration. “Jeb Bush has made it clear that if he were in charge, our brave men and women would be stationed in Iraq indefinitely,” said Mo Elleithee, of the Democratic National Committee.

Mr. Bush also called for arming the Ukrainian government in its standoff with Russian President Vladimir Putin , and he drew a hard line against Islamic State, saying the U.S. needs to “tighten the noose and then take them out.”

Throughout his remarks, Mr. Bush leveled criticism at President Barack Obama , accusing the president of diminishing America’s role in the world. “The great irony of the Obama presidency is this: Someone who came to office promising greater engagement with the world has left America less influential,” he said.

The White House wouldn’t comment on the criticism.

Mr. Bush challenged the president and congressional leaders to scrap a series of mandatory budget cuts that he said threatened military strength. “Our military is not a discretionary expense,” he said. “Weakness invites war. Strength encourages peace.”

Mr. Bush didn’t limit his comments to global hot spots, highlighting the need for the U.S. to expand its influence in Central and South America, warning that the Chinese are playing a greater role in the politics and economies of these countries. He also criticized Mr. Obama for easing the economic embargo on Cuba.

The former Florida governor said more robust U.S. economic growth held the key to American influence in the world, setting a growth target of 4% as the best method to boost the middle-class, pull other Americans out of poverty and set a standard for other countries to follow.

“Growth first,” Mr. Bush declared. “Growth above all else.”

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