An Undeniable Legacy

Don’t confuse this piece as an effort to be a Bush apologist. I flunked that course years ago when Ioval-office.jpg realized I was more conservative than I was compassionate. He lost me with his domestic policies on education, prescription drug entitlements, illegal immigration, and a total reticence to veto anything. Ironically, his biggest achilles heal, foreign policy, will become his most positive legacy. 

You may call George Bush what you will; inept, unintelligent, ineloquent, or plain stubborn but what the record will show is that in a post 911 world, he led an intricate web of intelligence and national security teams to the point where the U.S. has been free from a successful terrorist attack for over 7 years. Twenty years from now history will judge him far better than many of his predecessors  and most certainly with more objectivity than his loudest critics of today.

Unfortunately, this point is illustrated only too well as the carnage in Mumbai is revealed. Author Sadanand Dhume, writing in the Wall Street Journal states that “…over the past four years, Islamist groups have struck in New Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad, among other places. The death toll from terrorism — not counting the 101 killed {now over 175} in Mumbai on Wednesday and Thursday — stands at over 4,000, which gives India the dubious distinction of suffering more casualties since 2004 than any country except Iraq. …Put simply, India’s failure to protect its premier city offers a textbook example for fellow democracies on how not to deal with militant Islam.

Don’t confuse this piece as an effort to be a Bush apologist. I flunked that course years ago when I realized I was more conservative than I was compassionate. He lost me with his domestic policies on education, prescription drug entitlements, illegal immigration, and a total reticence to veto anything. Ironically, his biggest achilles heal, foreign policy, will become his most positive legacy. 

Historians and biographers will recount the entirety of his administration, not simply him and and his decisions. They will consider the time and context, the social, political, and economic environment. Most importantly they will weigh his supporting cast, much like the array of Abe Lincoln’s army generals and their incredible ineffectiveness in a time of crisis.  In the day of Bush 43 this would include members of a rudderless Republican Congress and an intensely partisan Democratic one. Oh, and did I mention that the media, for better or worse, will also play a role in the history of his administration.  

It is interesting to note that the loudest voices in India right now are the ones from citizens decrying the partisan political squabbling that has left them as vulnerable to terrorist attacks as they were before their onslaught began four years ago. The Panchayati Raj has some similarities to our Congress in that there is a sizable body of politicians who really don’t believe we’re actually in a war where the enemy, ideological terrorists, are pretty good at what they do.

Like them or not, the Department of Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, wiretaps, congressional debates to define torture, and endless airport security lines are just a few of the cogs in a massive security engine with George Bush’s fingerprints all over it. Even his toughest critics would have to admit the machine has worked pretty well. None of these elements were instituted without a drawn out fight from Congressional partisans. To borrow a phrase from the security professionals, “we have to be right 100% of the time, the terrorists only have to be right once”.

Legacies are funny things. If you go back in history and match presidents with their legacies developed over time it would reveal some interesting results. One of the most despised and distrusted presidents of his time became one of our most beloved; Abraham Lincoln.  Harry Truman, now viewed as one of the best presidents in U.S, history left office as one of the most unpopular. According to Harvard Kennedy School of Government Professor Ernest May, Gerald Ford is now regarded as one of the most underrated presidents in history based on a  more objective, contextual examination of his administration.

The tragedy in Mumbai gives new perspective on the incredibly difficult and tenuous nature of national security. With less than two months to go until he moves back to Crawford, Texas, George W. Bush has aced this test and his legacy will reflect this passing grade.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: