Obama = Bush

Following on from the recent post on this year’s National Security Strategy, what became apparent was that, even reading the cover letter, you got a sense that it could have easily have been written in the Bush 43 White House, expect for Obama’s signature at the bottom.

There was much talk among the media that “President Barack Obama has rejected George W. Bush’s doctrine that placed the ‘war on terror’ at the centre of American foreign policy” and that  the new president has distanced “himself from Mr Bush’s concept of pre-emptive wars to prevent emerging threats, instead citing the national security implications of global economic crises and climate change.”

While some of this may be true, especially with climate change reading the NSS there is little that differentiates the two president’s, just what they chose to highlight. Some have argued that Obama is really no different than George W. Bush, while others think Obama is a classical realist, in the mold of Bush 41. However, Bush the Elder may have been a realist when it came to leaving Saddam Hussein in power after the Gulf War, but remember, this is the man who said, “no one should have to starve at Christmas” after he sent in troops to Somalia, who also invaded Panama to oust Noriega, who the US basically installed, albeit for understandable reasons.

In his excellent piece, Peter Feaver, says that “Obama’s NSS similarly emphasizes America’s ‘global leadership’ and ‘steering those currents [of international cooperation] in the direction of liberty and justice’ and ‘shap[ing] and international order’ because ‘global security depends upon strong and responsible American leadership.'” Feaver continues noting that “Leadership goes beyond seeing the world as it is and includes transforming the world according to America’s interests and values or, as Obama puts it: ‘In the past, the United States has thrived when both our nation and our national security policy have adapted to shape change instead of being shaped by it.'”

Indeed, Feaver says “the biggest difference between Obama’s NSS and his predecessor’s is the long section devoted to domestic policy, both economic and social”. He says that “Bush labeled the ideology (“militant Islamic radicalism”), Obama leaves it a bit vague (“a far-reaching network of hatred and violence)”. The end result though is, I suspect the same, for example, “Bush’s NSS led with the observation that the country was at war; Obama’s NSS moves that point to the second paragraph.” Again,  he says “By embracing the outlines of the post-Cold War and post-9/11 grand strategy that has guided U.S. policy thus far, it is basically as strategic and coherent in outline as its predecessors”.

Rightly, Feaver says that “Grading the media’s coverage thus far, however, is comparatively simple: they have earned a failing grade that borders on malpractice. It appears that even reporters who were given advanced copies have been content merely to parrot superficial talking points built around caricatures rather than do serious analysis”.

Lastly, Stephen Walt on the NSS said that:”‘Meanwhile, ‘adversarial states’ (i.e., those who don’t follow our rules) will face a choice: ‘abide by international norms and achieve the political and economic benefits that come with greater integration with the international community; or refuse to accept this pathway, and bear the consequences of that decision, including greater isolation.’ This is no different than Bush’s belief that ‘you’re either with us, or against us,’ but it is a lot more long-winded.'”

Even Obama’s legal approach to dealing the terrorists has been only altered slightly, but the point remains, Obama buys into the War on Terror that Bush set up. One book that argues this extremely convincingly is Lynch and Sigh’s.

Finally, Drezner hits the nail on the head when says, “which box you put him in, I suspect, depends on which policy dimension you think matters most”.


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10 Responses to “Obama = Bush”

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