NY Post: Bam’s policies leave longing for decisive W.Posted: September 8, 2013
My old boss George W. Bush will never say it for himself, so I’ll say it for him: With President Obama’s foreign policy in tatters across the Middle East, maybe we’ve finally arrived at a moment where we can look at what we threw out when we replaced the Bush Doctrine with the Obama Doctrine.
Even calling the 44th president’s policy a doctrine is being generous. From the start, it had two chief components. One was the idea that you make your foreign-policy decisions based on domestic politics. The second was the new president’s apparent faith that the mere fact of his person would so dazzle the world that the lions would lie down with the lambs.
At the heart of this approach was Obama as the anti-Bush. That was the card Obama played in Chicago in 2007, when he declared we could not “bully” other nations. That was the card he played in Berlin in 2008, when he said, “Our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.” And that was the card he played in Cairo in 2009, when he called for a “new beginning” in relations between the United States and Muslims and denounced “the fear and anger” from 9/11 that “led us to act contrary to our ideals.”
Let’s stipulate that President Bush made his share of mistakes. Most prominently, these include underestimating what it would take to prevail in Iraq, as well as the way the long war there constrained his ability to maneuver on fronts such as Iran. And yes, there are legitimate arguments that can be advanced against basing a foreign policy on a freedom agenda.
Even so, the Bush policies retain one huge advantage over Obama’s: They hang together. That’s because they all flowed from principles he had laid out in public.
In his book “Decision Points,” the former president describes these principles this way:
“First, make no distinction between the terrorists and the nations that harbor them — and hold both to account. Second, take the fight to the enemy overseas before they can attack us here at home again. Third, confront threats before they fully materialize. And fourth, advance liberty and hope as an alternative to the enemy’s ideology of repression and fear.”
Whatever else that is, it’s clear. And putting it into practice required huge changes across most of the departments of government.
At West Point in 2006, President Bush likened the changes he’d made to fight terror — forming new coalitions, launching new initiatives (e.g., the anti-proliferation effort that led Libya to turn over its nuclear arsenal) and shaking up the federal government — to what Harry Truman did to prepare America for the Cold War.
Like Bush, Truman also began with a doctrine, which pledged American support for “free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” From that doctrine followed new confrontations (the Berlin Airlift), new alliances (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and new federal institutions (such as the Central Intelligence Agency).
But Bush did Truman one better. When Truman left office, Eisenhower inherited a mess in Korea. By the time Bush left office, he’d handed Obama a war in Iraq that had been won.
Less appreciated is that Bush also left Obama an infrastructure designed to give his successors more and better options against our enemies, on everything from military tribunals to intelligence collecting.
Obama has taken full advantage of some of this infrastructure when he felt the need, e.g., the National Security Agency’s terrorist-surveillance program. But even when he talks tough, it’s seldom tied to any purpose larger than domestic expediency. We’re seeing it again right now, with the president denying he set a red line in Syria as he tries to pass the buck to Congress.
This is foreign policy for the faculty lounge. It’s being advanced by a national-security team made up of men — John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and Joe Biden — who spent their Senate careers indulging the idea that the use of American force is almost always a bad thing for the world. And now they wonder why they are having a hard time selling a strike on Syria.
By contrast, President Bush gave us a foreign policy that was coherent, that met the challenge of the time and that left his successor with vital tools — including drones — that are responsible for the few things Barack Obama has managed to get right in his engagement with our enemies.
You might not agree with it. But it had purpose. And friend and foe alike had no doubt where he stood.
- Kevin Price: Echos of the ‘Bush Doctrine’ in Obama’s Syria Rhetoric (huffingtonpost.com)
- Bush casts a long shadow (maddowblog.msnbc.com)
- Opinion: Obama faces big hurdle to persuade public on Syria (cnn.com)
- Accused Killer Cites ‘Bush Doctrine’ (drudge.com)
- Ed Asner Explains Hollywood Silence on Obama, Syria: They ‘Don’t Want to Feel Anti-Black’ (undergroundpoliticsdotorg.wordpress.com)