Tuesday, December 8, 2009

or is it O = B1?

Lind claims that it's O = W or O = B2.

In the WSJ, Jerry Seib argues that it's O = B1.

Neither is particularly flattering! (Seib only discusses foreign policy here, but comparisons to fiscal policy and regulation would be apt as well.)

President Barack Obama and his aides talk a lot about how his approach to the world is different from George W. Bush's. What they say less often is that his approach has a fair amount in common with that of another Bush...the less idealistic, more pragmatic approach of the first President Bush...

For the elder President Bush, the hallmarks of foreign policy were a preference for pragmatism and stability over idealism and risk; an emphasis on multilateralism over unilateralism; and a willingness to work with leaders the world provides rather than the ones America might prefer.

Many of those hallmarks can be seen in President Obama's decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan....

It's striking that while Mr. Obama is often criticized for an overemphasis on soaring rhetoric and an excess of ambition in his domestic agenda, his Afghanistan announcement was marked by the opposite -- also mirroring foreign-policy pronouncements by the elder President Bush.

In sum, the younger President Bush, particularly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, aimed to use U.S. power to change the world, and was reluctant to compromise in pursuit of that goal. His father sought more to use American power to stabilize the world, and was prepared to compromise to achieve that end. Both approaches came in for criticism. The younger Bush's approach was faulted for being too idealistic and bombastic, the older Bush's for being insufficiently idealistic and overly cautious.

In any case, President Obama is leaning more toward the elder Bush's category....

President Obama hasn't adopted the elder Bush's approach in its entirety, of course. When the first Bush administration decided to go to war against Iraqi forces in Kuwait, it did so with overwhelming force, which is hardly the approach the current president has chosen in Afghanistan.

And to some extent, the current economic weakness of America may simply demand a less ambitious approach than George W. Bush attempted....The elder Bush's approach may have been a matter of prudence, while Mr. Obama's may be rooted more in necessity.


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