Due West: George W. Bush has the last laugh

© RIA NovostiKonstantin von Eggert
Konstantin von Eggert - Sputnik International
The moment news of Osama bin Laden’s death hit the wires, I was struck by a thought that somewhere in Dallas one man must have complex feelings about the demise of “the world’s most wanted man.”

The moment news of Osama bin Laden’s death hit the wires, I was struck by a thought that somewhere in Dallas one man must have complex feelings about the demise of “the world’s most wanted man.” For the whole seven years George W. Bush’s administration was under constant sniper fire from the opposition Democrats, U.S. media and the European allies for not being able to cease or kill the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. And now Barack Obama scored the biggest hit of them all since the capture of Saddam Hussein in 2004. History is sometimes unjust to its heroes. But it also has a rich sense of irony. And this irony should give the 43rd president of the United States a very deep satisfaction.

His Democrat successor has spent his election campaign and then two years in the Oval Office denigrating the Bush presidency, especially its foreign and security policies. The former junior senator from Illinois’s total lack of experience was compensated by unrelenting ideological obstinacy. America, its historical allies and alliances were spared no indignity in order to prove Barack Obama’s “otherness,” especially when it came to the Middle East and Islam. It still gives me creeps to see even a fleeting reminder of his Cairo speech. It was full of artificial excuses to Muslims for the perceived American offenses that never happened. It was probably the most erroneous pronouncement by a U.S. president since Gerald Ford’s infamous 1976 statement that Eastern European nations were not subjugated by the Soviet Union. One has to add up Obama’s 2009 overtures to the Tehran mullahs and demonstrative silence as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s thugs were putting down the opposition after the rigged presidential elections; his refusal to acknowledge the reality of “the war on terror”; his hasty withdrawal from Iraq and an even hastier and wrong-headed announcement of imminent departure of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, topped by the dismissal of General Stanley MacChrystal. Bush’s achievement was to acknowledge after 9/11 that America faces an existential challenge from radical Islam, which only grows stronger in the generally oppressive political environment of the Middle East, be it secular (like in Iraq) or religious (as in Iran or Saudi Arabia). Bush and his people understood that for such a battle pragmatism is not enough and strong ideas are called for. Bush’s insistence that liberty was a universal human aspiration struck both at the Islamist vision for the region and at the existing authoritarian regimes there. Bill Clinton said that America’s enemies hate it not for what it does but for what it is. Bush grasped this perfectly. He defined the ideological nature of the threat before trying to rally allies and strike preventively. This is not to say that his administration did not commit mistakes. It did, but in my view they were of a tactical nature, while strategically it was right.

Initially Obama dismissed this attitude as scaremongering by the neocons and the Christian right and tried to reverse. At some point in time I inclined to agree with American conservative analyst Joshua Muravchik. He remarked that Obama is on his way to becoming a worse president than Jimmy Carter – which is an exceptionally tall order to fill. Not anymore.

But over the last few months, Barack Obama seems to have started to shed the narrow worldview of the left wing of the Democratic party and, without ever admitting it, moved closer to the Republican vision. He appointed General David Petreus to head the CIA – a clever move designed to give intelligence gathering more focus on the practical tasks the U.S. military faces. There are hints that withdrawal from Afghanistan may be postponed until the task of substantially undermining the Taliban is accomplished. Obama backed the no-fly zone over Libya. I think he could have been more resolute and specific about the upheaval in the Arab world (which George W. Bush accurately predicted in his speech in Davos a few years ago). However hardly anyone was ready for it. Now comes Osama bin Laden’s elimination: a major success in the war on terror. It is clear that after the trouncing the Democrats got in last fall’s midterm elections, policy changes were in the order of the day. But it is an inescapable conclusion that these changes bring Obama’s foreign policy vision much closer to that of his predecessor. And Bush, in fact, determined America’s interests and aspirations and enemies for the long term. So today he’d be perfectly justified to raise a glass – to his own prescience.

I wonder whether this tendency will last. I think a crucial test will be Obama’s policy vis-à-vis Iran – possibly, the most acute, clear and present danger in and to the greater Middle East. Will the 44th president be strong and wise enough to recognize: Tehran’s challenge cannot be tackled by solely political means? The use of military force against the mullah’s regime not only cannot be excluded, but, actually, might turn out to be the only option. If Barack Obama comes around to realizing this, he might well deserve to be compared to someone much greater than Jimmy Carter. Say, George W. Bush.

Due West: Wake up, it’s a new world Mr. Prime Minister

Due West: Putin vs. Medvedev

Due West: East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet

Due West: The Kuchma sensation

Due West: More Putin-Medvedev cat and mouse?

Due West: Send in the Sukhois

Due West: Russia’s Romance with conspiracy theories

Due West: Good-bye to a colonel and his Socialist People’s Republic

Due West: Was George W. Bush right on Arab democracy?

Due West: And What about Syria?

Due West: Boris Yeltsin - Russia's flawed but genuine revolutionary

Due West: Pointing fingers instead of pulling levers

Due West: The times they are a-changing – should secular Arabs fear democracy?

Due West: EU ready to sell out to Beijing

Due West: Not to be missed – two anniversaries in 2011

Due West: Hotspots and weak spots around the world in 2010

Due West: Lukashenko as Europe’s number one psychologist

Due West: Vaclav Havel – the man, who still believes in politics

Due West: Georgia’s wildcard in Russia’s WTO membership

Due West: The tabloid freedom of WikiLeaks

Due West: Russia prepared to go as far as NATO is prepared

Due West: Looking into the Russian-Japanese island spat

Due West: Russia's NATO Dream


What is Russia's place in this world? Unashamed and unreconstructed Atlanticist, Konstantin von Eggert believes his country to be part and parcel of the "global West." And while this is a minority view in Russia, the author is prepared to fight from his corner.

Konstantin Eggert is an independent Russian journalist and political analyst. In the 1990s he was Diplomatic Correspondent for “Izvestia” and later the BBC Russian Service Moscow Bureau Editor. Konstantin has also spent some time working as ExxonMobil Vice-President in Russia. He was made Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала