Compare and contrast the leadership styles of George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama.
Bush was derided as a “unilateralist” and a “cowboy” but he built a coalition of 37 nations to take out Saddam Hussein. That coalition included Japan, deploying troops on foreign soil for the first time since World War II, this time not to colonize, but to stop a madman. Dozens of nations supplied troops or paid for the war as part of the maligned Coalition of the Willing. The objectives in Iraq were clear: regime change, followed by a transition to better government and a better life for Iraqis.
Obama so far has built a coalition of just 10 nations, one of which is the United Kingdom. The UK parliament voted down military action in Syria, Obama’s war of choice. None of the nations in the 10 have committed to send troops or militarily assist the U.S. in Syria strikes so far. The objective in Syria is not clear: Punish Assad for his supposed use of chemical weapons, but not enough to make any real difference in Syria’s civil war. “Just muscular enough not to be mocked.”
Bush consulted Congress on going to war in Iraq from the beginning. He included Congress at every step, and built coalitions with members of the other party all along the way. The justifiably maligned “No Child Left Behind” was an effort to build a coalition even with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Congress’ deliberations took more than a year.
Obama declared that he has the authority to act without Congress, but will consult Congress anyway. As congressional resistance has not abated, Obama cannot resist slipping into his mock mode, as he did during comments in St. Petersburg today. Obama also took a swipe at Bush today, when he mentioned having to deal with “debts we have already racked up.” Bush has refrained from publicly criticizing Obama, despite Obama calling Bush “unpatriotic” during the 2008 campaign, and then running up far more debt than Bush did. Obama has not promised not to strike Syria without congressional or UN support, which candidate Obama would rip as “unilateral,” “irresponsible” and probably “unpatriotic.”
Bush actually made a case for war before the UN and the American people. It was a credible case based on Hussein’s decade of defying the U.S. and the UN, his ordering his forces to fire on allied aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone, his Oil for Food scandal, and his record of invading his neighbors and developing weapons of mass destruction prior to the 1991 Gulf War, including the development of nuclear weapons. Some of the information included in that case turned out to be incorrect, but it was agreed to by most of the world’s intelligence agencies at the time.
Obama has yet to make his case. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Senate testimony this week, concealed much of the case as classified information. Despite insisting that we must act in Syria with urgency, Obama has put off the decision to strike until after Congress returns from its break, and now has pushed addressing the American people until next week. He appears to be living by the fierce urgency of…whenever.
Bush said “you are either with us or you are with the terrorists” and never backed down from that, despite widespread mockery.
Obama set a chemical weapons “red line” in Syria, then a year later after that line may have been crossed, denied ever setting a “red line.” He blamed the red line on “the world” and Congress.
Bush may have gotten some things wrong, but in the end he left no doubt that he acted in what he believed to be America’s interests based on the best information that he had at the time.
Obama appears to be going out of his way to assist the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and now Syria.