Democracy overseas, Security at home: Bush43 legacies?

Several interesting developments over the past few weeks deserve closer inspection from the perspective of George W. Bush’s presidency.  I have often been accused of being a “Bush defender/apologist”, which I proudly was most notably on national security.  I always felt the Bush presidency was suddenly and unavoidably shaped on 9/11.  Any President, after having that happen on his watch, would be hawkishly driven on matters of National Security … At least they should be.  Yet the battering Bush43 took in his efforts to protect the country from further attacks was withering.  So it’s interesting – to say the least – to assimilate the following events.  

1. Barack O’Bush? 

McClatchy Newspapers revealed this weekend that the Justice Department asserted that the FBI can obtain international phone records WITHOUT any legal process or court oversight

Sorry … Left out one small detail of that opening paragraph.

It was “The Obama administration’s Justice Department …”.

Just didn’t want you to confuse it with the Bush administration’s Justice Department!  Frankly,  it’s very hard to tell the difference between the two in this area.

Do you remember the promise to shut Guantanamo down?  How about the rage and hysteria after 9/11 over those provisions in the Terrorist Surveillance Program and The Patriot Act that were going to eliminate all vestiges of Liberty?  Remember the angst over wiretapping?  Internet and e-mail tracking and monitoring?  All supposedly reporting directly to Darth Cheney? 

Do you remember those promises of openness and transparency made by President Obama as he transitioned to The White House?

 The prison at Guantanamo Bay remains open to this day, after President Obama signed the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill that effectively prevents the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to the mainland or to foreign countries.  President Obama leads one to believe that he was forced to accept those provisions in order to get the authorization bill through Congress.  But he did so with barely a whimper – in December – when his lame duck congressional majority was still intact. 

Now we learn that the Obama Justice Department has asserted the legal opinion that the FBI can obtain international phone records on a voluntary basis from providers without legal process or a qualifying emergency.  That in itself is extremely insightful.  Has President Obama been convinced that the terrorist threat is so active, so dangerous, and so near that these measures are indeed necessary to protect the country?  In other words, has President Obama discovered that President George W. Bush was right in his domestic approach to the War on Terror?!? 

And that isn’t even the most interesting part!

How did McClatchy Newspapers find out?  By chance – perhaps inadvertently – through a response the Justice Department provided the news organization on an open-records request.  There was no administration press release, no announcement, no openness, no transparency.

Gosh, you might think The Evil Empire was still residing in The West Wing!

2. The march of democracy?   

Add another Middle East authoritarian regime to the scrap heap of history, as the regime of Hosni Mubarak was forced to the ground by the clamoring of everyday Egyptians.  There are a number of causes for the demise of Mubarak.  The Egyptian economy was a mess.  Unemployment was high.  Too many people – especially young people – were left idle for too long.

They clamor for regime change.   But chances are they will not willingly fall in behind another strongman, and certainly not accept a military government  in the longterm.  The native populations are also restless in Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, even Iran.  Can Iranians – again the young and the restless – bring down that government or even that theocracy?!?

Remember the criticism of President George W. Bush over his penchant for exporting democracy?  (Note specific references in the article to Egypt.)  Do you remember those claims that exporting democracy would not work in many areas of the world, especially the Middle East? 

The theme – beginning to grow in places – is an analysis of what effect Bush Doctrine experiments in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people in those countries currently in the midst of upheaval.  Certainly we are hearing Democracy mentioned more often in places where it has been nothing more than a definition in the dictionary.

Even President Obama said, ”The Egyptian people have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day, the moral force of nonviolence … that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.”

Of course there is no guarantee that these shaky countries will turn to or allow democratic solutions.  There is no guarantee that if they do, we won’t end up with regimes that are worse for their citizenry or that are threatening to U.S. interests.  But the thought that democracy is the first possible solution emerging from the smoky haze in such places as Tahrir Square has to put a smile on the face of the most blatant Bush defender.   

Perhaps a Bush43 legacy is just beginning to bud!

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