America Abroad

The Low Point of the Bush Presidency

In November 1990, during the buildup to Operation Desert Storm, James Baker tried to shore up support on the home front for the dispatch of U.S. troops half a world away. "To bring it down to the level of the average American citizen," he said, standing up to Saddam Hussein "means jobs." Then, to make sure everyone understood, he said it again, "If you want to sum it up in one word, it's jobs."

In one sense, Baker was merely stating the obvious. Of course the U.S. had an economic stake in the Persian Gulf. He would have been just as...