President Bush #43 has been in the spotlight to promote his new book on President Bush #41. In light of current events, of course we are all curious to know #43’s thoughts on the state of affairs in the Middle East. The normally reserved and classy former President, who has been reluctant to publicly criticize the current PotUS and involve himself in the partisan political mudslinging, had this to say on Sunday’s Face the Nation:
“Do you have any regrets [about sending troops into Iraq]?” Schieffer asked. “I mean, do you ever feel that maybe it was the wrong decision?”
“No I think it was the right decision,” Bush said, but he said he regretted the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in parts of Iraq.
“My regret is that a violent group of people has risen up again. This is al Qaeda plus. I put in the book that they need to be defeated. And I hope we do [defeat them].”
Who do you suppose President Bush may hold responsible for the rise of ISIS? Himself? Well, in an indirect moment of candor….
Bush had more to say about ISIS, including a thinly veiled jab at Obama’s policy decisions in Iraq.
Though he has generally declined to critique Obama’s presidency, Bush did write in his book that he regretted “subsequent developments and decisions” after he left office that contributed to the rise of ISIS, which threatened Iraq’s struggling democracy.
“For the sake of our security and the Iraqi people, I hope we will do what it takes to succeed,” he writes.
The Huffers are puffing over the fact that President Bush still believes removing Saddam from power was the right decision to make. HuffPo on his NPR interview:
Bush was asked on NPR Wednesday morning whether he thought Iraq is safer now compared with when Saddam Hussein was in power. The answer that followed was a vague “hypothetical” of Hussein’s capabilities had the U.S. not intervened — under what many believe to be false pretenses.
“One could envision a nuclear arms race between Iran and Iraq. The man, Saddam Hussein, would have a lot of revenue as a result of high prices of oil,” Bush said. “And even though there wasn’t, you know, a — we found a dirty bomb, for example — he had the capacity to make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. And so there’s — you know, it’s all very hypothetical.”
“I could argue that we’re much safer without Saddam,” he added. “And I would argue that the people of Iraq have a better shot at living in a peaceful — a peaceful state.”
A “hypothetical” where Iraqis have “a better shot” at peace is a far cry from democratic nation-building, given recent developments — the rise of the Islamic State, for one — that have yet to give way to stability.
But Bush argued that his successor was to blame, because the U.S. failed to maintain a troop presence in the country. He noted that “in 2009 and 2010, the violence in Iraq was settling down. And the democracy, even though it was not perfect — kind of like ours was initially not perfect — was beginning to work.”
The world is better off without the menace of Saddam Hussein; but it is all hypothetical whether or not the course of history is set on a better future because of the decision made by #43.
The reality is, even a bad decision can lead to good endings; and even a good decision can lead to bad endings. Why? Well, let me rephrase this: Bad decisions open the pathway to good and bad forks in the road, which then split off into more good and bad pathways. The same with a good decision: Bad and good forks in the road, branching off to more forks in the road.
The 2003 OIF was an impressive victory, with the streamlined approach and quick march into Baghdad. The post-war situation turned occupation and insurgency from 2003-2006 involved bad decisions. In 2007, Bush took a course correction, implementing Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy. By the time #43 left office, Iraq had stabilized. He passed the ball to his JV successor, #44….who walked with the ball, then fumbled it.
I know Greg and some other liberal critics want to blame President Bush for signing SoFA, claiming that this tied President Obama’s hands into being presidential bystander and not a decider (after President Obama for the previous years claiming credit for “ending the war” and “bringing the troops home”)- that he could do nothing and the Iraqis didn’t want American troops back.
I’ve been meaning to do a post on SoFA for months now, but it’s been sitting in the draft box as I keep getting sidetracked with daily life and regular work. I wanted to finish going through Panetta’s book, as well, before publishing the post. However, for now, all I can tell Greg is that he is flatout wrong regarding President Obama supposedly helpless to do anything about the SoFA signing. President Obama deserves his fair share of responsibility as leader of the free world in failing to renegotiate an updated SoFA, favorable to the U.S. and Iraq, that would have seen fit to maintain a troop presence in Iraq. This isn’t just a partisan belief. Military commanders, Republicans and Democrats, also hold President Obama accountable for the current rise of ISIS gains in Syria, spilling over into power rise in Iraq.
Bush-blame only stretches so far. He’s been out of office for almost 6 years without making a single policy decision. #43 is no longer behind the wheel, steering this ride. #44 is. Where he leads, through action or inaction, is on him.
These last 5-6 years? He owns it.