Michael Barone recognizes some of the foreign policy achievements of George W. Bush’s presidency:
He liberated Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and, after an agonizingly long period of muddle, seems to have achieved success — the establishment of a stable and at least somewhat democratic and friendly government in the heart of the Middle East.
He set in motion an astonishingly generous program to combat AIDS and an effective foreign aid program in Africa. Building on the work of the Clinton administration, he has established close ties that amount to something like an alliance with a rapidly growing India. Our relations with most European nations, with Pacific allies like Japan and Australia, and with the Latin American giants Brazil and Mexico are good, for all the carping of their chattering classes.
Barone recognizes the shortcomings as well (e.g. misjudging Putin, the failure to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions), but the Bush foreign policy legacy is not the picture of horror the Left would like us to remember.
There is, however, one item not on this list of accomplishments. It is one easily omitted (I frequently do so myself and am routinely reminded as such by colleagues who worked in the Bush Administration): we were not attacked on U.S. soil after 2001. That is remarkable, and was beyond our expectations at the time of the 9/11 attacks. There are serious debates about the policy choices which the Bush administration made in the war on terror. We can argue about whether other choices and a different approach with Congress would have, in retrospect, been preferable. But the fact remains: our intelligence community and national security officials foiled plot after plot and kept the homeland safe.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey reminded us of this in his (unfortunately interrupted) speech last week. He predicted that there will be more continuity than critics imagine in the next administration with regard to homeland security policy. We will see how than pans out. But for now, as Americans, including many conservatives, are bemoaning the legacy of the Bush presidency (and in particular his domestic record), we should remember that his greatest achievement may have been what did not occur. And unfortunately for President Bush, that is why it is easily forgotten.