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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bush Considered

Victor Davis Hanson calls it right...

A disinterested appraisal of Bush administration foreign policy will take years. For millions on the Left, events in Iraq, Guantánamo, and New Orleans rendered the 43rd president an ill-omened phantasma—omnipotent, ubiquitous, and responsible for all mischief big and small. “Bush Did It” soon became a sort of ritual throat-clearing that critics evoked at each new Florida hurricane, Israeli-Palestinian mini-war, or serial “revelation” from a Paul O’Neill, Richard Clarke, or Scott McClellan.

The fact remains, though, that most of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives shared Bush’s desire to remove Saddam Hussein after 9/11. They patted the president on the back when he finally did so (after 16 months of acrimonious debate between the fall of the Taliban and the invasion of Iraq), abandoned him when the postbellum insurgency arose, opposed the surge when he nearly alone supported it, and gave him no credit for Iraq’s eventual success. Now, in a sort of theater-of-the-absurd fashion, they claim Iraq worked largely because they once declared it lost and thereby prompted the necessary changes. The congressional opposition’s record on Iraq is largely one of opportunism, his of principle—and that too will become part of the historical record.

Yet, strangest of all, well before even assuming office, the ever-flexible President-elect Obama has done much to prompt reassessment of Bush’s tenure. He apparently has chosen to drop most of his primary-election rhetoric and instead intends to continue nearly all of the sitting president’s anti-terrorism and foreign-policy initiatives—albeit cloaked in far-more-winning mantras of hope and change, energized by youthful charisma, and predicated on subtle appeals to multiracial fides.

The only discontinuity seems to be with the stance of the mainstream media. Without apology, journalists have already gone from the narrative of Bush, the destroyer of civil liberties, to Obama the continuer of “problematic” and “complex” measures. So just as Bush once eagerly licked his chops and salivated over Gulag Guantánamo, so Obama now with wrinkled brow and bitten lip is himself tortured that he has to sorta, kinda keep it open for a while longer.

Abroad, Bush has had three major successes.

We were not attacked after 9/11, despite serial warnings that such a comparable terrorist assault was inevitable. Bush created a new methodology of anti-terrorism. In magnitude and comprehensiveness (though unfortunately not in explication), it was analogous to Truman’s similarly controversial promotion of anti-Soviet containment that proved successful for the subsequent near half-century.

For all the rhetoric about Bush’s manufactured war on terror, today it is much more difficult—as the dozens of failed plots during the last seven years attest—to pull off a terrorist act inside the United States. War abroad and new anti-terrorism vigilance at home have decimated those who would wage such attacks.

Even Obama recognizes the success of these measures. We can see this well enough with the president-elect’s shifting positions on FISA, renditions, the Patriot Act, Guantánamo, and withdrawal from Iraq (once envisioned by Obama to be completed by March 2008). Bob Gates II won’t be that different from Bob Gates I at Defense; Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State will be far closer to Condoleezza Rice than to Howard Dean or Al Gore. Gen. James L. Jones could easily have served as national security adviser in the Bush administration. Hamas and other Palestinian groups will probably not get better actual treatment from Obama than they got from Bush—just some soothing rhetoric about dialogue and engagement rather than dead-or-alive, smoke-’em-out lingo. Add all the foreign-policy alignments up, and either Bush was right then, or Obama is wrong now.

Source: The Corner (be sure to read it all)