DALLAS, TX - APRIL 24: Former President George W. Bush participates in a signing ceremony inside the Freedom Hall for the joint use agreement between the National Archive and the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University on April 24, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. Dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library is to take place on April 25 with all five living U.S. Presidents in attendance. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Updated: May 28, 2013 7:53PM
If there was one thing the left was certain about in 2008 it was this: George W. Bush had catastrophically undermined America’s world reputation with his unprovoked aggression and use of torture. And the election of Barack Obama and his friendly approach to the Muslim world would make the United States safer as well as more just.
No one believed this tale more fervently than Obama himself. His first official act was to direct the closing of Guantanamo Bay within one year and the elimination of harsh interrogation techniques. The “message we are sending around the world,” he intoned, “is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle . . .
in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals.”
Obama participated in erecting a Bush straw man — a Bush who disdained and caricatured Muslims in general and committed war crimes in the name of national security. In fact, Bush had gone to great pains, within hours of the 9/11 attacks, to appear with imams and to stress that Islam was a “religion of peace.”
Because Iraq had been Bush’s war, as Obama saw it, he squandered the hard-won victory by failing to obtain an agreement that would have kept a stabilizing American force on the ground. And because Afghanistan was the war Bush allegedly neglected, Obama sent 33,000 more troops — a surge that failed, but not before causing 70 percent of the American deaths in that conflict.
Most of all, the Obama administration fled from the concept of a struggle against Islamic terrorism as if fighting jihadis (the smalls subset of Muslims who’ve declared war on us) were equivalent to warring against all Muslims. The war on terror became “overseas contingency operations.”
When Faisal Shahzad attempted to explode a car bomb in Times Square, the administration at first declared it to be a lone wolf attack, only later reluctantly conceding that the Pakistani Taliban had been culpable. When the consulate in Benghazi was attacked, the administration conducted a prolonged disinformation campaign.
Tiptoeing through language after the Boston bombings, the administration at first declined to use the word “terror,” perhaps fearing that to use the word would imply a Muslim connection.
What has this excruciating torture of the language and “rebranding” achieved? The U.S. is not safer. Terror attacks have been attempted at the same rate as during the Bush years. As for U.S. standing in the Muslim world, the Guardian reports that a 2011 poll found favorability ratings for the U.S. have plummeted. “In most countries they are lower than at the end of the Bush administration, and lower than Iran’s favorable ratings.” A 2012 Pew poll of six predominantly Muslim nations — Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan — found U.S. approval ratings below those during the Bush administration.
It’s one thing to create a bogeyman for political purposes. It’s quite another to believe your own propaganda and make policy in response.
Obama’s doubletalk about the nature of our enemies — jihadis — has achieved neither greater safety for Americans nor improved popularity in the Muslim world. He’s 0 for 2.