Obama Vindicates Bush?
Charles Krauthammer contends that the remarkable continuity between the Obama foreign policy and the Bush foreign policy he campaigned against so vociferously is an example of “the genius of democracy” through which “a national consensus is forged and a new legitimacy established.” As a result, “The Bush policies in the war on terror won’t have to await vindication by historians. Obama is doing it day by day.”
As I argue in my New Atlanticist piece “Obama Foreign Policy: Bush 2.0?” there’s a lot to this.
Whatever one thinks of a given president, the fact of the matter is that foreign policy is mostly crafted by career bureaucrats and a rotating Washington policy elite who share a remarkably similar vision of things regardless of political party or domestic ideology. Because of a strange confluence of events (the dramatic shock of 9/11, the dissimilarity of the threat we faced from the state actors we’d traditionally fought, and a president wishing to break radically from what he perceived as the fecklessness of his predecessor’s approach) neophyte ideologues (in this case, the loudest of the neocons) managed to briefly gain control. Their approach was soon revealed to be radically flawed and the foreign policy elite got up to speed on the issues and reasserted their dominance.
So, yes, the realities of office mean President Obama is much less of a change than Candidate Obama promised and, yes, many of President Bush’s hard choices are thereby affirmed as necessary even if undesirable. It does not, however, follow that those policies Bush himself abandoned are thus vindicated.
Your mileage may vary.