A nice read: 10 reasons why George W. Bush was a smarter world leader than Barack Obama By Nile Gardiner When it took office a year ago, the Obama administration boasted of a new strategy of “smart power”, designed to restore America’s “standing” in the world. In essence this new approach to foreign policy was designed to distance the new US government in every way possible from the Bush administration, supposedly hated in every corner of the earth, from Berlin to Buenos Aires. Hence, the hallmarks of Obama’s foreign policy have been the naive engagement of an array of odious dictatorial regimes, grovelling apologies before foreign audiences, lamb-like timidity in the face of intimidation, the ending of the War on Terror, and the trashing of traditional alliances. But has this liberal foreign affairs revolution succeeded in advancing American interests and security across the globe? Hardly. Under Obama’s leadership the United States now appears significantly weaker and far more vulnerable, faced with an array of deadly threats that grow more menacing by the day. When President Bush was in power he may not have been hugely popular abroad, but the United States was widely feared on the world stage, her enemies were hunted to the ends of the earth, and her real allies were treated with respect. As Barack Obama is discovering to his cost, the world stage is not an extension of the set of American Idol, and global leadership is not about winning popularity contests. The doctrine of “smart power” looks increasingly like an empty shell, a naive approach that has reaped no dividends and threatens to usher in an era of American decline, unless it is reversed. I’ve outlined below ten areas where George W. Bush’s international leadership was considerably smarter than that of his successor. As I noted in an article at the end of the Bush presidency, ten or twenty years from now, historians will view Bush’s actions on the world stage in a more favourable light. President Bush, like Ronald Reagan, understood that American global leadership rests heavily upon the projection of hard power as well as diplomacy, and the United States can only lead effectively if it is willing to aggressively confront its enemies and defeat them. 1. Bush never apologised for his country Barack Obama has apologised for America’s past actions in practically every speech he’s given on foreign soil, and has humiliatingly referred to America’s “arrogance”. In contrast, George W. Bush’s speeches before international audiences were filled with pride for America’s history and achievements, with an uncompromising belief in the greatness of his country. The Obama approach has simply projected weakness rather than strength, and his diatribes against the previous administration’s counter-terror strategy has provided ample ammunition for those who believe the United States lacks the stomach for the fight ahead. 2. Bush identified and confronted evil There was something very refreshing in George W. Bush’s Reaganesque interpretation of the world in terms of good and evil. In contrast, Barack Obama has viewed the globe largely in shades of grey, with a reluctance to describe who exactly America’s enemies are, from North Korea and Iran to Islamist terrorists. I applauded Bush when he delivered his infamous Axis of Evil address because he correctly identified the nature and scale of the threat the West is facing from an array of rogue regimes, who in some cases also act as large-scale sponsors of international terrorism. President Obama’s disastrous decision to engage Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs of Iran has simply bought the regime in Tehran valuable time to advance its nuclear and ballistic weapons programme, as well as its ambitions to dominate the Middle East. 3. Bush made the advance of freedom a key component of his agenda The spread of freedom and liberty was always a centerpiece of the Bush agenda. His critics derided this approach as unrealistic, or as a grandiose dream. But few would argue today that the people of Iraq were better off living under a monstrous tyrant like Saddam Hussein. In marked contrast, Barack Obama rarely mentions the word freedom, and the issue of human rights is far down his list of priorities. He has remained largely silent in the face of extreme brutality by the Iranian regime, has extended the hand of friendship to genocidal killers in Sudan and has turned a blind eye to repression in places like Burma. There is a name for this kind of strategy – appeasement – and it only serves to weaken America’s standing in the world and strengthen the brutal fist of its enemies. 4. Bush defended national sovereignty One of the biggest shifts in US foreign policy under the Obama administration has been its willingness to undermine national sovereignty, and its desire to give more power to supranational institutions such as the United Nations. Washington has already rejoined the embarrassing UN Human Rights Council (HRC), and is likely to sign up to the International Criminal Court and a host of UN treaties that threaten US interests. Barack Obama gave one of the most embarrassing and cringe-worthy speeches in American history at the UN General Assembly last September. President Bush, never a big fan of Turtle Bay, wisely kept his country out of the ICC and the HRC, and firmly resisted calls for him to sign the Kyoto Protocol as well. 5. Bush believed in the Special Relationship I don’t recall George W Bush ever throwing a bust of Churchill out of the Oval Office or giving the British Prime Minister an insulting pack of DVDs. President Bush recognized Great Britain as America’s closest friend and ally, and placed the Special Relationship at the very heart of US foreign policy. Under Obama, the Anglo-American alliance has reached its lowest point since the Suez Crisis of 1956, a damning indictment of his world leadership. Bush possessed a genuine affection for the British people, their great heritage and their role in the world. Barack Obama cannot even bring himself to mention Britain in a major policy address or acknowledge the sacrifice of British forces in Afghanistan. 6. Bush cultivated key allies Granted, Bush was hardly the most popular leader the US has ever had in Europe. But he did invest a great deal of time and effort in cultivating a strong personal relationship with several key European leaders, including Tony Blair, Jose Maria Aznar and Silvio Berlusconi. President Obama has largely ignored building alliances with European heads of state, and seems indifferent towards the transatlantic alliance. His administration has placed far greater emphasis upon backing the rise of a European superstate, than it has on strengthening ties wit close allies. The Obama administration has also succeeded in damaging the partnership between Israel and the United States, something no president has achieved since Jimmy Carter. 7. Bush understood the importance of missile defence The Obama White House’s appalling surrender to Moscow’s demands to scrap Third Site missile defence was a shameful act in the face of Russian intimidation. It was an agreement the Bush Administration had painstakingly negotiated with key allies Poland and the Czech Republic, and the ensuing US withdrawal was a massive propaganda victory for Vladimir Putin and a huge betrayal of America’s friends in central and eastern Europe. It also demonstrated hesitation over adequately funding and building an effective global missile defence system, vital to the defence of the West against a mounting Iranian threat. 8. Bush believed in fighting a global war One of the gravest mistakes of Obama’s first year in office has been his reluctance to describe the conflict against al-Qaeda and its backers as a global war. He dropped the idea of a War on Terror within days of entering office, which was subsequently renamed as an “Overseas Contingency Operation”. President Bush was right to rally his country behind a large-scale long war, one which may last for several decades, against an enemy that seeks the destruction of the West. 9. Bush did not compromise US security The Obama administration’s zealous drive to dismantle the Bush administration’s infrastructure for dealing with al-Qaeda, including the promised closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, is having zero effect on lessening the threat the United States faces from Islamist terrorists. In fact, the followers of Bin Laden are now further emboldened by the President’s weakness, as demonstrated by the recent failed Detroit bombing attempt. President Bush was right to use all the tools at his disposal to keep America safe in the face of a vicious enemy. Barack Obama’s PR offensive to win over the hearts and minds of America’s enemies is already a spectacular failure. 10. Bush did not send mixed messages in the face of the enemy A constant theme of Barack Obama’s speeches has been to describe the war in Iraq as a “war of choice”, underscoring his own intense opposition to the war, hardly a message of support for the more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers still stationed in the country. He also spent months dithering over whether to send additional US forces to the war in Afghanistan, and when he finally did make an announcement of an extra 30,000 troops it was tempered by the simultaneous declaration of an exit strategy, and a warning that America could not wage war against the Taliban indefinitely. This was hardly a display of Churchillian grit by the Commander-in-Chief. In contrast, President Bush never failed to give his soldiers the full, unequivocal backing they deserved, and always spoke in terms of achieving victory, instead of artificial timetables that hand the initiative to the enemy.