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Charles Krauthammer's op-ed column on the Bush legacy.
WASHINGTON--Clare Boothe Luce liked to say that "a great man is one sentence." Presidents, in particular. The most common "one sentence" for George W. Bush (whose legacy is being reassessed as his presidential library opens) is: "He kept us safe."
Not quite right. He did not just keep us safe. He created the entire anti-terror infrastructure that continues to keep us safe.
That homage was paid, wordlessly, by Barack Obama, who vilified Bush's anti-terror policies as a candidate, then continued them as president: indefinite detention, rendition, warrantless wiretaps, special forces and drone warfare, and, most notoriously, Guantanamo, which Obama so ostentatiously denounced--until he found it indispensable.
Quite a list. Which is why there was not one successful terror bombing on U.S. soil from 9/11 until last week. The Boston Marathon attack was an obvious failure, but there is a difference between 3,000 dead and three. And on the other side of the ledger are the innumerable plots broken up since 9/11.
Moreover, Bush's achievement was not just infrastructure. It was war. The Afghan campaign overthrew the Taliban, decimated al-Qaida and expelled it from its haven. Yet that success is today derogated with the cheap and lazy catchphrase--"He got us into two wars"--intended to spread to Afghanistan the opprobrium associated with Iraq.
As if Afghanistan was some unilateral Bush adventure foisted on the American people. As if Obama himself did not call it a "war of necessity"; and Joe Biden, the most just war since World War II.
The dilemma in Afghanistan was what to do after the brilliant nine-week victory? There was no good answer. Even with the benefit of seven years' grinding experience under his predecessor, Obama got it wrong. His Afghan "surge" cost hundreds of American lives without having changed the country's prospects.
It turned out to be a land too primitive to democratize, too fractured to unify. The final withdrawal will come after Obama's own six years of futility.