George W. Bush, One-Term President
Posted by David Shorr
Like Heather, I'm scratching my head over the argument that Obama's strategy is basically the same as his predecessor's, which requires serious selective memory. I'm happy to stipulate that Bush 43 tacked back toward foreign policy reasonableness in his second term. So sure, there are similarities between the new National Security Strategy and the 2006 version (and even more with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's reports on transformational diplomacy). Alas, the GW Bush presidency didn't start in 2005; you'd have to have pretty severe amnesia to view the Bush administration's latter-day course correction as representative of its foreign policy. So I guess we have to remind ourselves of the first-term policies that weren't so easily corrected:
- The Iraq War (and associated cost in blood, treasure, and reputation)
- Enhanced interrogation, secret prisons (and associated theories about presidential authority as commander in chief)
- Scrapping of the 30-year-old Anti-Balistic Missile Treaty (trading stable US-Russian deterrence for the fantasy of an unproven technology)
- Witholding mil-mil cooperation with any nation that cooperated with the ICC (talk about heavy-handedness)
- Climate change denial (as Heather and Michael remind us)
- Push for next-generation nuclear weapons
Heck, the Bush Administration itself struggled internally as it tried to shift direction in the second term. Even if Vice President Cheney no longer enjoyed the same dominance, the effort to take a more pragmatic approach to North Korea and Iran, for instance, was resisted at every turn by John Bolton and other hard-liners.
I wouldn't argue that every aspect of Bush policy was wrongheaded. But when you try to draw a straight line between Bush and Obama, that's a stretch, to say the least.