Former Bush administration officials are eager to attribute Obama’s foreign policy successes to the previous administration. But on Fox News this morning, Karl Rove distilled this viewpoint down to a few broad, if at times grossly inaccurate, generalizations:
Where president Obama has embraced the Bush world view things have gone well. Where Obama has not embraced the Bush worldview, it has not gone as well.
But the reality is that Bush actually embraced Obama’s view on Iraq, and the current president has had many foreign policy successes when doing the exact opposite of what Bush did.
While Rove attacks Obama for failing to reach an agreement for an extension of the Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and a lengthier U.S. troop presence in Iraq, it was the Bush administration that set the withdrawal deadline for the end of 2011. And at that time, it was then-Senator Obama who was campaigning for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. So Bush was actually embracing Obama’s view.
Libya, which Rove fails to address, stands as a striking departure from the Bush administration’s propensity for military action and ground troops. Over the course of 227 days, the U.S., along with an international coalition, implemented U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. The multilateral military campaign proved successful in unseating Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi and no U.S. military service personnel were killed.
While GOP hawks continue to complain that the White House should have committed more military forces sooner, the Obama administration was successful in Libya without endangering U.S. soldiers or damaging relationships with allies. Rove would find it difficult to argue that Obama’s Libya strategy was either an extension of Bush administration policy or a failure.
Fox’s Brian Kilmeade does admit that Obama “has some headlines” with his successes in Libya and killing Osama Bin Laden, but Rove chooses to overlook the number of instances in which Obama’s successful policy dramatically differed from the Bush administration’s. Indeed, Bush had publicly stated in 2006 that capturing or killing Bin Laden was “not a top priority use of American resources.” Obama had made the capture or killing of Bin Laden a top priority and ordered intelligence resources dedicated to tracking the Al Qaeda leader.
The arguments expressed by Rove will, no doubt, be repeated in the days leading up to the Republican Presidential Primary debate on November 12. But Rove’s selective list of Obama’s foreign policy accomplishments underscores the administration’s relative success in foreign policy compared to the George W. Bush administration’s mismanagement of two wars and inability to capture Bin Laden.