Posted by David Curtis on June 18, 2015 in Blog

jeb_bush_pic_1.jpgDavid Curtis is an intern with the Arab American Institute 

Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and, until Monday, non-candidate for the 2016 elections, mysteriously traveled to Europe last week. Mr. Bush, of course, just declared his intention to seek out the Republican presidential nomination; his decision to address Europeans, though, may help shed some light on his ideas about the Middle East.

For Jeb, the agenda in Europe includes having to balance a few sore issues. First, he must convince Europeans, who largely blame George W. for the mess in the Middle East, that he is not, in fact, his brother. This is a difficult task for Jeb, especially if any Europeans recall that Jeb recently named his older brother as one of his top advisors on the Middle East.

This leads to a discussion of another of Jeb’s tasks, this one more important: he must carefully refrain from alienating hawkish Republican voters back at home, many of whom he will certainly need if he is to become the party’s nominee in 2016. Since GOP voters are largely split on the question of whether it was worth invading Iraq in 2003, it will be in Jeb’s best interest to avoid the topic altogether. Continuing to blame the Obama Administration for prematurely pulling out of Iraq is always a safe bet.

Overall, though, Jeb’s goal while in Europe was to not mess up. Demonstrating that he can handle himself in a composed fashion on the international stage is one thing that may give Jeb a boost over his GOP rivals. But, because recent trips to Europe have not proven helpful for other Republican candidates (not to mention Mitt Romney’s semi-disastrous foreign escapades in 2012), it is likely that Jeb’s insistence on showing off foreign policy competence can only harm the GOP hopeful. This is especially true if, while in Europe, Jeb is ever pestered with difficult questions about the Middle East; when this has happened before, Mr. Bush has done a stellar job in displaying his foreign policy incompetence.

Because Jeb will generally be spouting the same rhetoric that other Republican candidates have been calling for – unconditional support of Israel, combating Islamic extremism, etc. – his trip in Europe will most likely prove fruitless. Jeb’s focus, therefore, will be walking the line between the policies of his older brother, and President Obama. 

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