Terrorism is systematic utilization of violence. It is used as a coercion tool for political purposes. In international politics, the definition of the term terrorism has neither criminal nor legal binding definition. In common parlance, terrorism pertains to violent actions solely intended to instill fear. Terrorism is perpetrated for ideological, religious, and political reasons. It is a deliberate and blatant attempt to disregard and target non-combatants who are commonly civilians. It entails unlawful violence acts and war. Innumerable political organizations continue to use terrorism to advance their objectives. It has been a practice for nationalistic groups, religious groups, ruling governments, left-wing and right-wing political parties, as well as revolutionaries (Henderson 45).
This paper is an attempt to compare and contrast the administration of President Obama and that of President Bush as far as their politics and policies on terrorism are concerned. This discussion will be based on Crotty, Whittacker, Clarke, Podhoretz, and Fallows readings. The extent of how appropriate, ethical, legal, and human their procedures and policies in combating terrorism are will be examined, as well. The extent on how the varying policy statements square with my comprehension of policy and politics will also be important in my discussion. Furthermore, the point on how these policies reflect with public opinion in the United States will be explored. The perception of these policies by traditional enemies and allies in both Western Europe and Middle East will also be evaluated.
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President Obama rose to the presidency by attacking President Bush's approach to War on Iraq. In his apocryphal speech, in 2002, he labeled President George W. Bush's war in Iraq a dumb war. In Iraq, President Bush attacked a malevolence regime that had been deliberately isolated by both Republicans and Democrats for over one decade. Contrariwise, President Obama most recently wanted to attack Syria's evil regime, which had been coddled for about six years by White House and the Democrats. This approach puts President Bush on a complete contrast with President Obama. President Obama's interest and war on terror are pegged on White House and Democrats whims while President Bush's approach cut across the board (Rajaee and Miller 112).
President Bush attacked Iraq after the United Nations (UNs) inspectors averted the attack and turned down this idea. Moreover, he attacked Iraq despite seriously violating resolutions by UNs Security Council. President Obama, on the other hand, had announced planned attacks on Iraq before even the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) made any resolutions. He even opposed the resolutions made by the UNSC. President Bush attacked Iraq after the UNSC faced a deadlock as to whether to use military force or not. The UNSC failed to reach an agreement as to whether force was to be used or not. This prompted President Bush to attack Iraq. President Obama did not even attempt to solicit for UNSCs authority of whether to use force or not.
Upon building a stable multinational and supportive coalition of willing, President Bush led the United States in the War in Iraq. This coalition with Britain enabled the US under Bush to attack Iraq. On the contrary, President Obama administration did not seek to build a coalition with its allies. However, despite Britain's rejection of the war, the US went ahead to plan for the war. No wonder Russia opposed this move vehemently. It is evident that President Bush sought the Congress authorization first before even either going to the United Nations or planning the attack. Presidents Bush attack on Iraq as a war against terror perpetuated by Al Qaeda, as well as its affiliated groups, while President Obama plans were pegged on the alarming Islamist groups, which are allied to Al Qaeda.
President George Walker Bush's administration had clear-cut policies on how to combat terrorism, whereas President Obama's administration approach is vague and unpredictable due to uncertainty. War on terrorism in President Bush's administration had very clear objectives. It was mostly aimed at a regime change. It was geared towards replacing dictators with democratically elected leaders. On the contrary, President Obama's policies on combating terrorism do not depict clear objectives. Bush acted before even Saddam Hussein threatened his own citizens or the neighbors. Obama only acted only after President Bashar al-Assad had slaughtered over 100,000 Syrians and threatened his neighbors. Bush moved the US military strategically in order to protect the US allies while Obama seems to use military sequesters despite the risks they pose to US allies (Rodriguez and Harlow 57).
However, despite the many and vast ideological differences, temperament, and style, President Obama has kept most of President Bush's policies to help his administration combat terrorism. Obama has stuck with quite a number of Bush's aspirations and policies on many fronts. These policies range from immigration to counterterrorism, from war strategies to other health and safety issues. Indeed, President Obama vied for presidency back in 2008 within the anti-Bush campaign. He was very critical on Iraq war as well as other economic policies that had characterized President Bush's administration. The military budget was immense by then. However, during Obama's first term, Obama adopted some of President Bush's initiatives. This illustrates how President Bush's administration policies took hold.
Apparently, the realities of governance have limited solutions. Bush authorized military surges to tame conflicts. Upon ascending to power, President Obama speeded the process of withdrawing troops in Iraq. Equally, a military surge in Afghanistan was instituted under Bush. Bush's policies on combating terrorism were more aggressive as compared to Obamas. Withdrawal of troops is likely going to end by 2014.
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Just like Bush, Obama has sought to have an overhaul of the entire immigration laws. These immigration laws accord over 11 million immigrants a chance to get US citizenship albeit illegally. President Obama's administration aims at ending the callous interrogation techniques. For instance, water boarding has been employed since President Bush's administration. Obama sought to declare authoritatively that his administration would not be involved in torture. Obama has sought to bolster homeland security to counter terrorism. Obamas administration principally seeks to use military detentions without any trial, drone strikes, and warrantless surveillance. This has rubbed the Obamas administration the wrong way especially with Brazil and even the United Kingdom to some extent.
Wikileaks by the Australian Julian Assange and most recently, the diplomatic leaked by Edward Snowden has exposed President Obama to criticisms. While unwarranted surveillance and espionage are important as far as counterterrorism measures are concerned, it is important to ensure the US does to damage relations with its allies. Most people, especially Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the press, have expressed their discontent with Obama's policies. This shows that these policies may not augur well will the aspirations of the citizenry as shaped by public opinion.
Senator John McCain, who ran against both George Walker Bush and Barack Obama in 2000 and 2008, provides an interesting assessment to both presidents. He lauds President Obamas relentless efforts to utilize counterterrorism measures. He posits that each appreciates the threat the US faces from terrorists groups. However, he faults President Obamas failure to leave a strong residual force after the war in Iraq. Moreover, there is still uncertainty as to what situation Afghanistan will be after 2014. Obama is seeking to withdraw military troops rather than making military commitments abroad. The trajectory under President Bush's administration was escalating military presence abroad contrary to President Obama's administration. However, having zero troops abroad is dangerous. While President Obama paints a picture of reduction of the military presence abroad, this legacy may be tainted terribly if this lack of overseas military culminates to doing more harm than good. This policy leaves a lot improvements to be desired, creates uncertainties, and breeds vulnerability (Gerges 71).
Critics see Barack Obama's administration war on terror as less ethical and even nastier than that of George W. Bush. During his administration, drone attacks have been on the rise. His administration blatantly points out that these attacks are authentically precise. However, this is incomprehensible, illogical assertion, and logistically impossible. In Pakistan for instance, about 3,000 people have been reported to die because of attacks by US troops. The United Nations, Philip Alston, who is the special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, described these attacks as international war crimes. Regarding public participation, a gulf between the industrial/military and civilian democracy complex has deepened. President Obama's administration has adopted an aggressive pursuit towards the Bushs policy (Walker 42).
USSOCOMs budget quadrupled after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Today, there are about 66,000 civilian and uniformed personnel. This is double the size as compared to 2001. Obama had promised to shut down and end torture in Guantanamo. Thus, his campaigns in 2008 were sheer idealistic aspirations devoid of any practical execution framework. Primarily, the loopholes that characterized this idealistic campaign have been challenged in the reality on the ground. However, Obama has adopted a softer spot over arrested terrorism suspects like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a 19-year-old Boston Marathon suspect. He was charged in a federal court. He was not treated like other enemy combatants.
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President Obama kept military commissions, indefinite detention, and rendition. He has sought to enable him maneuver through special operations. Constitutionality has been bypassed, and contrariwise, Obama has adopted a Machiavellian approach and thus disregarded ethics. Drone strikes killed American citizens in September 2011. Obama remains unmoved by such actions. The executive aggrandizement within the US history explains the fight against international terrorism. While President Obama has closely followed the footsteps of Bush, his predecessor, when it comes to war tactics such as state secrets, domestic spying, targeted killings, rendition, and other approaches, the number of deaths has risen. The US and Americans indeed find it comfortable when their government reach practical consensus as far as combating terrorism is concerned. Under Obama, CIA has applied torture techniques to detainees and the NSA has expanded its illegal spying over Americans hence thwarting the right to privacy. This will continue to underline the initial skepticism Americans had at the wake of an Obama re-election. Redefinition of torture as improved interrogation techniques continues to tarnish Obama's approach towards the fight against terrorism (Lansford, Watson, and Covarrubias 109).
However, this criticism cannot overshadow President Obamas administration merits. He has succeeded in ending the Iraq War responsibly. Obama has equally sought to intensify his dire desire to combat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The fight against terrorism requires the precision and flexibility rather than one-size-fits-all approaches adopted by President George Bush. Both administration responses to terrorism are not clear-cut due to the dynamic and superfluous international politics. His administration has sought to further America's national security aspirations and interests. Counterterrorism measures have been bolstered to safeguard America against external and internal aggression. Obamas resolve to combat terrorism is strong and aims at ensuring international peace in line with America's amelioration dream.
In conclusion, it is evident that President George W. Bush's policies are still very alive within President Barack Obamas White House. Obama was ushered into office amid heightened expectations among Americans. He unequivocally laid bare his idealistic policies, which were exactly the opposite of his outspoken Republican predecessor. Drone strikes and troop surges are some of the controversial programs that took roots during Bush's administration. President Obamas National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson, Caitlin Hayden, pointed out recently that al Qaeda, its adherents, and its affiliates remain America's foremost counterterrorism focus. As increased discussions continues to spark outcry among liberals and libertarians within the Congress, the need for clear guidelines as far as drone war is concerned should be put in place. It is thus clear that policies of this kind are not a reflection of positions held by Republican and Democratic parties. Obamas campaigns were anchored on Democratic unrealistic and idealistic campaigns and thus qualify as political rhetoric.