(By guest blogger, Andy Jackson)
President Bush’s recent Asian tour must have seemed like a gizzard sandwich with fresh-from-the-oven bread. He started out with America’s closest ally in east Asia (can anyone doubt that we are talking of any country other than Japan), then went to a mixed reception in South Korea followed by tough talks with the Chinese. He then finished things off with more love in Mongolia:
Business aside, Bush and his wife, Laura, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice soaked in some of the life of the nomad, courtesy of President Nambariin Enkhbayar, who took them outside of the capital Ulan Bator along a frozen river to an arid valley where Enkhbayar lives.
They saw camels and yaks and Mongol warriors in armour and helmets, hoisting colourful battle flags and armed with swords, mounted on short, stout horses.
Dancers performed in elaborate dresses and massive masks on their heads performed. Others in yellow and blue robes banged a gong and played horns.
It was biting cold and the entourage went inside two round wooden structures covered by thick felt known as "gers" and used by nomadic herders because they are easily packed up and moved.
Bush and the rest of the U.S. party were served a variety of traditional foods and drinks. Bush had a taste of fermented mare’s milk and nibbled on some cheese curd that one participant said tasted like sour cream.
Three older women in brightly coloured gowns performed traditional throat singing, a form of singing developed centuries ago in which one person can sing in up to four different voices.
Bush gave Mongolia high marks for its support in Iraq and compared the country to Texas:
"This is a beautiful land, with huge skies and vast horizons — kind of like Texas," he said in a speech.
Trust me, any time a Texan compares someplace to his native land, that is a pretty strong compliment. But I think Montana would be a more apt comparison. Bush topped that with a compliment sure to appeal to Mongolia’s martial tradition.
"The Mongolian Armed Forces are serving the cause of freedom and U.S. forces are proud to serve beside such fearless warriors," he said.
The visit was a diplomatic pay-off for Mongolia’s policy of working with the United States to help ease the pressure of being sandwiched between two great powers. That they have gotten a lot of mileage from stationing only 120 soldiers in Iraq shows how a small contribution can be leveraged into a great amount of goodwill with Washington, especially with an administration that prizes loyalty and personal friendship to the degree that this one apparently does.
UPDATE: Gateway Pundit has more with pictures.