George W. Bush inherited a recession. He also inherited the Iraq no-fly zones, a Middle East boiling after the failed last-minute Clintonian rush for an imposed peace, an intelligence community wedded to the notion of Saddam’s WMD proliferation, a Congress on record supporting “regime change” in Iraq, a WMD program in Libya, a Syrian occupation of Lebanon, Osama bin Laden enjoying free rein in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, a renegade Pakistan that had gone nuclear on Clinton’s watch with Dr. Khan in full export mode, and a pattern of appeasing radical Islam after its serial attacks (on the World Trade Center, the Khobar Towers, U.S. embassies, and the U.S.S. Cole).
In other words, Bush inherited the regular “stuff” that confronts most presidents when they take office. What is strange is that Obama has established a narrative that he, supposedly unlike any other president, inherited a mess.
At some point, Team Obama might have at least acknowledged that, by January 2009, Iraq was largely quiet; Libya was free of WMD; Syria was out of Lebanon; most of the al-Qaeda leadership had been attrited or was in hiding; a homeland-security protocol was in place to deal with domestic terror plots; European governments were mostly friendly to the U.S. (unlike during the Chirac-Schröder years); and the U.S. enjoyed good relations with one-third of the planet in China and India.
The fact that in the Bush years we were increasingly disliked by Ahmadinejad, Assad, Castro, Chávez, Kim Jong Il, Morales, Ortega, and Putin, may in retrospect seem logical, just as their current warming to the U.S. may prove to be cause for alarm, given the repugnant nature of these strongmen.
Bottom line: Obama’s second year as president is coming up, and it is long past time to move on and let historians judge the Bush years.