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How George W. Bush’s Failures Helped Secure America

To describe the two-term Presidency of George W. Bush as ‘conventional’ is like calling Hurricane Katrina a ‘light drizzle’.  While passions remain high on both faces of the political coin, it is impossible to properly understand his actions and legacy so close to his tenure in office.  As time goes on, and the Obama administration begins to distance itself from its predecessor, the true impact of George W. begins to crystallize. A self-described ‘war President’, his lasting implications are in the field of national security and counter-terrorism.  Stripped down from all bravado, ego, politicization, posturing, and blunders, George Bush bequeathed to America one lasting and priceless reality.  Against all odds, and partially brought about by repeated failures, his administration managed to entangle the once global al Qaeda in to the national and ethnic divisions that entangle us all.  In other words, he placed the pan-Islamic terror organization in a time machine, pressed fast forward, and brought them to the modern age of the nation-state.

Compare this statement:

We are the children of an Islamic nation whose leader is Mohammed. We have one religion, one God, one book, one prophet, one nation. Our book teaches us to be brothers of a faith. All the Muslims are brothers.” – Osama bin Laden October 2001.

With these:

It [Iran] caused itself and the Shiites following it a historic disgrace. The signs of this stab will remain vivid in the Muslims’ memory for a very long time. The strange paradox to which I would like to draw attention is that despite the fact that Iran permitted the Crusader troops to enter Iraq, recognized the agent government there, and pushed its militias to participate in this government’s army, security services, and police force.” – Dr. Al-Zawahiri 200

“The leadership of Hamas government has committed an aggression against the rights of the Islamic nation by accepting what it called… respecting international agreements.  I am sorry to have to offer the Islamic nation my condolences for the [virtual demise] of the Hamas leadership as it has fallen in the quagmire of surrender.” Dr. Al-Zawahiri 2007

These statements offer a clear insight in to the (d)evolution of the global jihadi movement.  Once committed to a global, transnational identity, al Qaeda and its followers have become embroiled in inter-Muslim conflicts and rivalries.  While Bin Laden once sought to sooth Sunni – Shi’ah divisions, al-Zawahiri now openly exploits these differences to incite Sunni-inspired jihad across the region.  Similarly, the working relationships that formed as a unified opposition to Israel (Hamas, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Iran, and al Qaeda) have begun to dissolve.  It seems that while bombs and bullets can kill terrorists, only politics can kill an ideology. 

So what has caused these divisions?  Is it directly related to the policies of the Bush administration?  Ironically, I believe that it is George Bush’s failures that have given America this opportunity.   Critics accused his measures as draconian, outdated, and more befitting the cold-war period.  These characterizations have been proven accurate, as America has yet to defeat al Qaeda and its sympathizers.  What the critics failed to see, however, is that while his strategy was ill-equipped to defeat the global jihadi movement, George Bush managed to compartmentalize the movement in to units that are now far easier to confront.  Simply put, because GWB stubbornly refused to confront his enemy as a global movement, he forced it in to the boundaries of the modern nation state.  Terrorists once bent on global domination are now embroiled in Talibani resistance, Hamas vs. Fatah power struggles, and the Iraqi insurgency.

Had he chosen the other option, and ‘gone global’ as many were advocating, ponder the possible outcomes.   Terrorists that have been drawn to Iraq like moths to a flame would have remained in their home countries, plotting further attacks against American interests.  Sunni al Qaeda and Shi’ah Hezbollah would have remained united against Israel.  The working relationship between Iranian leadership and al Qaeda leadership would have increased the likelihood of a nuclear-armed terror cell. 

George W Bush set out to defeat al Qaeda, and in that mission he has failed.  Yet his failures in Iraq and Afghanistan have forced the jihadi movement to think, act, and fight as if it were a nation-state. Drawn to various locations and causes, such as the Taliban controlled region of Northwest Pakistan, these terrorists are now easier to locate, track, and kill.  This is the second act in the west’s fight against al Qaeda.  While GWB might have played the well-meaning but mistaken leader in Act I, he has set the stage for the final showdown.  



Josh Hammer

Josh Hammer is an International Relations theorist, with expertise in terrorist ideology, American foreign policy, and war / conflict resolution. He currently holds a Master's of Science degree in International Politics from the University of Edinburgh, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the George Washington University. Josh's most recent work, his M.Sc. thesis, is a comparative analysis between Marxist / Leninist ideology and Osama bin Laden's global jihadi movement. He currently resides in New York.

Areas of Focus:
Terrorist Idealogy; American Foreign Policy; Conflict Resolution;