That homage was paid, wordlessly, by Barack Obama, who vilified Bush’s anti-terror policies as a candidate, then continued them as president: indefinite detention, rendition, warrantless wiretaps, special forces and drone warfare, and, most notoriously, Guantanamo, which Obama so ostentatiously denounced — until he found it indispensable.
Quite a list. Which is why there was not one successful terror bombing on U.S. soil from 9/11 until last week. The Boston Marathon attack was an obvious security failure, but there is a difference between 3,000 dead and three. And on the other side of the ledger are the innumerable plots broken up since 9/11.
Moreover, Bush’s achievement was not just infrastructure. It was war. The Afghan campaign overthrew the Taliban, decimated al-Qaeda and expelled it from its haven. Yet that success is today derogated with the cheap and lazy catchphrase — “He got us into two wars” — intended to spread to Afghanistan the opprobrium associated with Iraq.
As if Afghanistan was some unilateral Bush adventure foisted on the American people. As if Obama himself did not call it a “war of necessity” and Joe Biden, the most just war since World War II.
The dilemma in Afghanistan was what to do after the brilliant, nine-week victory. There was no good answer. Even with the benefit of seven years’ grinding experience under his predecessor, Obama got it wrong. His Afghan “surge” cost hundreds of American lives without having changed the country’s prospects.
It turned out to be a land too primitive to democratize, too fractured to unify. The final withdrawal will come after Obama’s own six years of futility.
Iraq was, of course, far more problematic. Critics conveniently forget that the invasion had broad support from the public and Congress, including from those who became the highest-ranking foreign-policy figures in the Obama administration — Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and Biden.
And they forget the context — crumbling sanctions that would, in short order, have restored Saddam Hussein to full economic and regional power, well positioning him, post-sanctions, to again threaten his neighbors and restart his WMD program.
Was the war worth it? Inconclusive wars never yield a good answer. Was Korea worth it? It ended with a restoration of the status quo ante. Now 60 years later, we face nuclear threats from the same regime that was not defeated in a war that cost 10 times as many American lives as Iraq.
The Iraq War had three parts. The initial toppling of the regime was a remarkable success — like Afghanistan, rapid and with relatively few U.S. casualties.
The occupation was a disaster, rooted in the fundamental contradiction between means and ends, between the “light footprint” chosen by Gen. George Casey and the grand reformation attempted by Paul Bremer, who tried to change everything down to the coinage.
Finally, the surge, a courageous Bush decision taken against near-universal opposition, that produced the greatest U.S. military turnaround since the Inchon landing. And inflicted the single most significant defeat for al-Qaeda (save Afghanistan) — a humiliating rout at the hands of Iraqi Sunnis fighting side-by-side with the American infidel.
As with Lincoln, it took Bush years of agonizing bloody stalemate before he finally found his general and his strategy. Yet, for all the terrible cost, Bush bequeathed to Obama a strategically won war. Obama had one task: Conclude a status-of-forces agreement and thus secure Iraq as a major regional ally. He failed utterly. Iraq today is more fragile, sectarian and Iranian-influenced than it was when Bush left office — and than it had to be.
Like Bush, Harry Truman left office widely scorned, largely because of the inconclusive war he left behind. In time, however, Korea came to be seen as but one battle in a much larger Cold War that Truman was instrumental in winning. He established the institutional and policy infrastructure (CIA, NATO, the Truman Doctrine, etc.) that made possible ultimate victory almost a half-century later. I suspect history will similarly see Bush as the man who, by trial and error but also with prescience and principle, established the structures that will take us through another long twilight struggle and enable us to prevail.
While I agree Obama has certainly continued too many of Bush's wrongheaded foreign policies, he did in fact end the obscene practices of rendition & torture of the previous administration.
Guantanamo remains open largely because Republicans in Congress, adopting a short-sighted “not in my backyard” attitude, have barred Obama from transferring any detainees to the United States, not even to stand trial in a criminal court, and has put onerous conditions on their being transferred to any other country. These measures have effectively frozen in place one of the most counterproductive aspects of our national security policy – and given Al Qaeda just what it wants.
As long as some of the men at Guantánamo remain lawfully detained as enemy fighters in an ongoing armed conflict, they have to be held somewhere, so realistically Guantánamo can be closed only if we can transfer them here or to a third country. But few members of Congress have the courage to stand up to fear-mongering about holding the men here, or are willing to risk the possibility that a detainee transferred abroad might take action against us in the future. They don’t seem troubled at all about keeping men locked up who the military has said could be released, or about keeping open an institution that jeopardizes our security. In the meantime, Congress has assured that the United States will continue to be better known around the world for Guantánamo Bay than for the Statue of Liberty.
"The dilemma in Afghanistan was what to do after the brilliant, nine-week victory." Hmm. If it was such a victory, why are US forces still there?
Obama has made several dumb decisions in managing the war on terror overseas. The 30,000 troop surge was a colossal waste of time, lives and resources, and his adoption and subsequent expansion of using drones for near-indescriminate bombing campaigns is particularly egregious...and dangerous. Its that kind of tactic that practically guarantees additional terrorist attacks.
Networks Skip Over ABC's Poll Finding That Bush Approval Rating Hit a Seven-Year High, Even with Obama
Did anyone notice anything missing during Diane Sawyer’s interview with President Bush last night? She didn’t mention his surge in the polls, which was conducted by ABC News. Yes, ABC decided to omit their poll in order to have Sawyer bait President Bush with left-leaning questions, like his views on gay marriage. The American people are now giving the forty-third president a second look, and it seems to be driving liberals crazy.
On April 23, the Washington Post’s Fix blog reported that Bush’s approval ratings have hit a seven-year high. They are equal to that of President Obama’s at 47%.
Almost as many people (47 percent) approve of how Bush handled his eight years in office as disapprove (50 percent), according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. That’s the highest approval rating for Bush since December 2005. Bush’s approval dipped all the way to 23 percent in Post-ABC polling in October 2008 and was just 33 percent in January 2009 when he left office. (His approval rating was below 40 percent for 26 consecutive months before his term ended, the longest streak of sub-40 presidential ratings since polling began in the 1930s.)
And, what’s fascinating is that it’s not just Bush’s overall job approval numbers but the intensity measures. In the new Post-ABC poll, 34 percent say they “strongly” disapprove of the job he did while in office; that’s the lowest strong disapprove number for Bush since January 2005.
Bush’s biggest gains over the past few years have come among seniors (30 percent approval in 2008, 57 percent approval today), non-college whites (34 percent in 2008, 57 percent now) and moderate/conservative Democrats (10 percent in 2008, 33 percent now).
"Did anyone notice anything missing during Diane Sawyer’s interview with President Bush last night? She didn’t mention his surge in the polls"
Idiot, do you know who Diane Sawyer is? She was a Republican political operative who worked for Nixion. Indeed she was involved in "editing" the tapes Nixon was forcede to turn over.
Perhaps next you will accuse Karl Rove of being partr of the (imaginary) liberal media conspiracy.
Needless to say, it hasn’t changed amongst blacks and Democrats, who still hate him. Yet, the Big Three – ABC, CBS, and NBC – failed to cite this poll in yesterday’s coverage. On the Today show, Matt Lauer seemed more concerned about whether the president’s library would have exhibits that would “force” critics “to take a second look" at his legacy. David Gregory, also of NBC, thought it would be more appropriate to slam President Bush during the dedication ceremony that "formed the backdrop to criticism that the President underestimated the challenges he faced.... And grew stubborn in the face of mounting setbacks…what grew into a reputation for incompetence stained the administration and the GOP brand after Hurricane Katrina."
Yet, not one network had a segment that broke down the poll, and discuss the implications of Bush’s surging approval ratings.