How Iraq Ties Bush and Obama Together
Even in keeping a campaign promise to get the troops out of Iraq, the president finds himself tied to the legacy of George W. Bush.
President Obama's Oval Office speech earlier this week should have felt like a win for the administration. The official transfer of power that came hours later in Iraq should have been the "victory lap" the president desperately needs from a political standpoint.
Instead, many critics of the White House saw the speech and subsequent ceremony (overseen by Vice President Biden as the mission transitioned from "Operation Iraqi Freedom" to "Operation New Dawn") as a drab performance that contrasted sharply with the vigor (and perhaps misguided zeal) that the Bush administration used to lead the United States against the late Saddam Hussein and Iraq in 2003.
More than anything else, though, the transition of power is displaying an unexpected link between the two presidents: a bond in accomplishment and, even more, in any apprehension that the Iraqis may have about the U.S.
The "hat-tip" gestures that President Obama made toward former President George W. Bush -- first with a phone call and then his acknowledgment during the 19-minute prime time speech later Tuesday evening -- were more than just recognition of the man whose administration initiated one of the longest (and most controversial) wars in American history. It also symbolized a subtle but significant admission that the surge policy President Obama ardently opposed as a candidate (going so far as to propose to end "Operation Iraqi Freedom" by March 2008) was not only the proper military move in Iraq but is now the prime directive on the ground in Afghanistan as well.
By sticking to this Bush initiative, President Obama has been able to keep a well-publicized campaign promise to shift the war's primary focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. Some may argue that the focus should not have been on attacking Iraq after Sept. 11, 2001, in the first place, but the increased nuclear ambitions of Iran and the persistent influence of the Taliban in Afghanistan have given President Obama no choice but to continue President Bush's surge policy.