Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is taking heat for saying in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine that the "Bush administration's arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, one of Huckabee's rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Huckabee should "apologize to the president" for this.
Huckabee, however, was merely using a term Bush himself used to criticize an interventionist foreign policy during his own 2000 campaign.
Back then, a Democrat was president. That Democrat believed America had a nation-building mission. Republicans generally opposed the idea, and then-Gov. George Bush of Texas made repudiating an "arrogant" foreign policy part of his presidential campaign.
In a debate between Bush and Vice President Al Gore, moderator Jim Lehrer asked Bush how other nations should perceive the United States. "It really depends upon how our nation conducts itself in foreign policy," Bush said in part of his answer. "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us."
Bush elaborated on how a "humble nation" would behave. For starters, it would build alliances to contain adversaries rather than sending troops everywhere. "We can help build coalitions, but we can't put our troops all around the world," Bush said.
It was especially important to do this to deter Saddam Hussein. "It's going to be important to rebuild that coalition to keep the pressure on him," Bush said.
Candidate Bush also caustically dismissed the idea that America has a special nation-building mission or a mandate to tell other nations how to govern themselves.
"Maybe I'm missing something here," he said sarcastically. "I mean, we're going to have kind of a nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not. Our military is meant to fight and win war. That's what it is meant to do. And when it gets overextended, morale drops."
"I'm going to be judicious in how to use the military," he said. "It needs to be in our vital interest; the mission needs to be clear and the exit strategy obvious."
"I think one way for us to end up being viewed as the ugly American is for us to go around the world saying, 'We do it this way, so should you.'" said Bush.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush did a 180-degree turn on foreign policy. "So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world," he said in his second inaugural address.