Barack Obama’s rejection of George W. Bush’s Middle East policies in large part fueled his own meteoric rise to the top of American politics. He reviled the war in Iraq; criticized the one in Afghanistan; promised to close down Guantánamo, establish a new respect of Islam, and quickly solve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Two years later, what is striking is how much Obama’s policies have come to reflect Bush’s — in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the “war on terror,” in the Arab-Israeli conflict, in the responses to turmoil in Tunisia and Egypt — and now in Libya, as the 3,400-word speech he gave last night exemplifies. Certain flourishes (such as the jibe at the costs of the Iraq effort), to be sure, reminded the audience who was speaking, but the overall theme of a noble United States working with allies to help an Arabic-speaking people in danger to win the freedom “to express themselves and choose their leaders” could have been spoken by his predecessor.
Obama’s rapid shedding of his own ideas and his adoption of Bush’s policies suggests that, however great their philosophical differences, Americans have reached a working consensus on Middle East policy.
— Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.