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Missing George W. Bush

Both Charles Krauthammer and Rich Lowry have columns that argue that what Barack Obama needs is to be more like his predecessor George W. Bush. In Rich’s words, Obama needs to find his inner cowboy.

Their argument is that the self-imposed deadline by Obama to begin withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan next summer has caused a great deal of harm. It both encourages the Taliban and discourages the Afghan government, and for the same reasons: we look unreliable.

The one thing I’ll add to the excellent commentary by Krauthammer and Lowry is that Bush was under far greater pressure to withdraw troops from Iraq than Obama is facing with Afghanistan. At the time, Iraq was dominating the political conversation and was perceived as doing great harm to the GOP. The nation was bone-weary of the war, Democrats were in open rebellion (unlike Republicans with Obama on Afghanistan), and GOP leaders were unnerved. At the time — late 2006 and early 2007, when I was serving in the White House — it seemed as if you could fit the supporters of the surge in a phone booth.

But Bush didn’t care. He made the right and wise decision – and he had the guts and the nerve to stick with it. It was not only his finest hour; it was one of the most impressive and consequential presidential decisions in modern times. Bush and Petraeus are the two individuals most responsible for keeping Iraq from descending into chaos and civil war. They turned the war around.

We can only hope that Petraeus finds in this commander-in-chief some of the same courage we saw with Bush. If he does, the war in Afghanistan, like the war in Iraq, can have a positive outcome.


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