Republican George W. Bush left the White House in January 2009 as one of the worst presidents in recent decades. The failure of the invasion of Iraq, violations of human rights in the so-called war against terrorism, repeated examples of mismanagement as the response to Hurricane Katrina and the financial crisis defined his legacy.
Democrat Barack Obama, who rose with flag of opposition to the Iraq war, he was replaced with the message of yes, we can and hope for change.
Five and a half years later, Obama still struggling to get rid of Bush. Not always successfully. Guantanamo Bay is open. The current president has not only continued the massive spying NSA (National Security Agency) and drone bombings, but has expanded. His public investment programs, coupled with monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve, the U.S. contributed to come out of recession and return to growth and job creation, but the financial crisis of 2008 left a more unequal country and the impoverished middle class.
And now Iraq. The war destroyed the reputation of Bush; the war that Obama opposed from the start and he thought he had left behind forever when in December 2011 the last soldiers withdrew eight years and more than 4,500 Americans dead and tens of thousands Iraqis later; war that America had forgotten.
“I believe we are close to strategically defeat al Qaeda,” he said in 2011 the then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
“Today Iraq is less violent, more democratic and more prosperous,” said Anthony Blinken in 2012, then national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and now deputy director of security for Obama.
The optimism was premature. The advancement of Sunni insurgents themselves – that the U.S. assumed they had defeated three years ago and the disbanding of the government forces have forced the White House to contemplate military intervention. Iraq is the latest example of how, despite himself, Obama moves still coordinates its predecessor established after the attacks of 9/11.
“Bush had a big impact. It was a transformative president,” notes historian Julian Zelizer of Princeton, who in 2010 published The presidency of George W. Bush.
Bush, according to Zelizer, ” embarked on two significant wars that promoted the idea of regime change, the idea that the United States should focus on reconstruction of states and civil societies.” ” When presidents make great things like this,” he adds, ” the next president normally has to deal with the legacy, either internal or foreign policy. “
In the nearly six years at the Obama White House has worked to turn the page. Tried to order the withdrawal from Iraq after failing the agreement with the Iraqi government to leave there few thousand soldiers. And tries the withdrawal plan in Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
” This war, like all wars must end. This is what I suggest history. This is what we demand our democracy, ” the president said in 2013, in a speech on post- war 9/11 and Bush counter terrorism policies.
“We have withdrawn our troops from Iraq. We are ending our war in Afghanistan, ” held last May after another keynote speech on foreign policy this.
Like Sisyphus with stone, every time Obama believes he has surpassed the Bush era, Bush was back. And now, less than three weeks after that speech, weigh air or missile launched from aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf attacks to help the government of Nuri al-Maliki to stop the jihadists in Iraq. Cautious, the U.S. president has put a number of conditions to Al Maliki to act. Without an inclusive political project, says the White House bomb is useless.
Neither option seems good: intervene can light the fire; refrain from intervening, as the Obama Administration has made in recent years, too. The debate in Washington these days is a crossing of allegations: Bush and the Republicans for invading Iraq in 2003 and ignite a powder keg that does not turn off; Obama and the Democrats for having desentidido Iraq and neighboring Syria, the insurgents platform to attack the Iraqi government.
Iraq, contrary to what Obama wanted, not the past. That experience conditions any decision Obama now take, as in September 2013, when the U.S. was about to intervene in Syria. As in Syria, Obama insists he will not send ground troops to Iraq. Since then, Obama contemplates the option is limited intervention. No one, not politicians or citizens want to see young Americans dying in distant countries.
The memory of the nightmare of Iraq (the dead, divisions, over two trillion dollars that have cost the U.S. treasury, according to a study) determines what can be done (anything that does not endanger life or an American) and why not (a terrestrial deployment).
As after the Vietnam War, the U.S. live under Iraq syndrome, trauma, explaining the reluctance of Obama to get involved in new conflict and withdrawal. Unlike Vietnam, a country that the U.S. left in 1973, never to return, Iraq threatens to have occupied the U.S. for decades.
Bush ‘s legacy has also conditioned the domestic policies of Obama, according to Zelizer. The President has kept the tax cuts of his predecessor, except for those with more income, making it difficult deficit reduction. The debate on the reform of immigration laws that would open the door to the legalization of millions of undocumented immigrants, played with little change which took place in 2006 and 2007. Bush, like Obama, was in favor of reform.
Obama, in addition to the historic nature of the election of the first African American president, shall be a minimum of health care reform and measures to bring the U.S. out of recession. It is not. In some ways the U.S. has transformed itself, as promised.
But, according to historian Zelizer, ” foreign policy is not so clear who has the same impact, beyond consolidate what did President Bush.” ” Ironically,” he says, ” one of the greatest effects of his presidency can be a bipartisan legitimacy to the entire anti-terrorist program that stood after 9/11 “.
Bush was not a visionary, rather tended to underestimate his intellect, but his world is ours. Obama seemed a visionary when in 2009 came to the White House but it will be difficult to trace as its predecessor.