I’m still not a fan of Bush’s brand of big-government conservatism, nation-building adventurism, shortsighted economic tinkering, or even the famous loyalty to, well, the Bush loyalists (“Heckuva job, Brownie!”). And I suppose you could even argue in a roundabout way that, from the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS to the rise of Putin, all the bad things that have happened since he left office are examples of Bush backlash.
But if we just compare the former president to what passes for today’s “leaders,” the comparison has him looking pretty good.
At the risk of sounding hackneyed and partisan, it is worth saying that after a disastrous beginning to the Iraq war, Bush—to his credit—made the gutsy decision to double down and back the surge. It worked, and Iraq was fairly stable until Obama withdrew troops and opted not to push the Iraqis to leave a sizable reserve force behind.
For all his faults and mistakes, Bush deserves credit for making this tough call. (I also give President Obama the same credit for his decision to get bin Laden in Pakistan, a decision that was far from a slam dunk—and might have gone disastrously wrong.)