Former US president George HW Bush, who died on Friday at his home in Houston, will be remembered for his delicate handling of the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union.
Bush also proved his toughness as a World War II hero by sending the military into Panama to depose its dictator strongman Manuel Noriega in 1989. Two years later, he launched Operation Desert Storm that expelled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait which they were occupying for seven months after invading it in August 1990.
Bush never lost direction as he steered his country through these crises during four years of his tenure as president. This was no small achievement.
Five months after his inauguration in January 1989, the Tiananmen Square massacre in China shook the world. Bush condemned the incident and suspended military sales and high level exchanges with Chinese officials. However, broader sanctions against China sought by US Congress and the public were not fully implemented.
Five months later, on Nov 9, the world watched with bated breath as East Germany began knocking down the Berlin Wall, above, in a symbolic act marking the end of Cold War.
As the wall fell, Bush exercised utmost restraint while making comments so as not to provoke the Soviet Union. That strategy worked again before the reunification of Germany in October 1990.
Bush played a crucial role in German reunification talks. German statesman Helmut Kohl later said his country’s reunification would not have been possible without Bush and Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The three met again in Berlin to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall in 2009.
After a US Navy seaman was murdered by the Panamanian Defence Force, Bush sent the military into Panama in December 1989 in an operation code-named Just Cause and deposed its dictator Noriega. Bush ordered the attack as he was concerned about the safety of US citizens in Panama and the increasing threat to democracy and human rights there.
Two years later, US-led forces drove out Saddam’s Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait. The popularity ratings of Bush soared after the first Gulf War although some critics said the president could have extended the campaign to Iraq and captured the dictator.
Despite four years of success, Bush found himself struggling with a sinking economy towards the fag end of his term. He was not re-elected and Bill Clinton, who kept calling the US economy “stupid”, was voted in as America’s 42nd president.
Posterity will also remember Bush as a role model president who symbolised some of the noble values Americans stood for.
Bush was as much dedicated to the nation as to his family. He was a World War II hero. At 19, he became the youngest combat pilot in the US Navy’s history.
As a family man, he was dedicated to Barbara, his wife of 73 years. For his children, including America’s 43rd president George W Bush, he was the best dad they could ask for.
Bush was respected by most Democrats as a genuine and decent leader. Although he fought a bitter presidential election with Clinton, they became thick friends later.
Paying his tributes with wife Hillary, Clinton said Bush never stopped serving. Bush teamed with Clinton while working on tsunami relief in Asia and after Hurricane Katrina back home.
Age could not wither his spirit. Bush parachuted from aeroplanes to mark his 75th, 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays.
His message to old people was clear: “Get out and enjoy life.”