Kaplan on Bush/Obama

Thanks to Lexington Green for this.

Be Like Bush

Finesse alone won’t get Obama through the challenges ahead. He needs to become more like his predecessor.

by Robert D. Kaplan

The word that best describes President Barack Obama is “finesse,” implying delicate skill, subtlety, and grace—all attributes that former President George W. Bush seemingly lacked. Obama is truly the great finesser: he has finessed his way through life. To exude this quality is to be the opposite of an ideologue – something that comes close to describing Bush. And being the opposite of Bush would seem a good thing, right? Wrong.

The greatest, most obvious mistake that American administrations make is to overcompensate for the flaws of the previous one. The pendulum should come to rest in the middle, not swing to the other extreme. Bush’s fundamental mistake was in becoming the anti-Bill Clinton, rather than merely steering away from his predecessor’s roughest edges. Clinton had been obsessed with Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, so rather than focusing on it to a moderate degree, Bush would have none of it at all. Big mistake. Clinton seemingly believed in nothing, so Bush would believe fervently despite the facts. Again, big mistake. Now it looks as though Obama is making a similar blunder. Finesse alone will not get him through the challenges ahead. He’s got to become a bit more like Bush. He’s got to make clear that he fervently believes in and cares about certain things, and he has to communicate that belief starkly: the challenges of health care, Israeli settlements, and particularly the war in Afghanistan demand no less.

Read the rest here.

SIDENOTE: Chirol has been very busy in ‘real life’ having just returned from vacation, starting his second year of gradschool and preparing for a real (later to be explained) job in his field. Apologies! I haven’t forgotten CA readers!

About Chirol

Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (1852 - 1929) was a journalist, prolific author, world historian, and British diplomat. He began his career as a foreign correspondent and later became editor of the London Times. After two decades as a journalist he joined Her Majesty's Foreign Ministry as a diplomat and was subsequently knighted for his distinguished service as a foreign affairs advisor. Additionally, he wrote a dozen books on foreign affairs including The Far Eastern Question (1896), Serbia and the Serbs (1914), The End of the Ottoman Empire (1920) and The Egyptian Problem (1921). He is generally credited with popularizing "Middle East" in reference to the Arabian Peninsula with his book The Middle Eastern Question (1903). "Chirol" is a US citizen and graduate student studying Defense and Strategic Studies and government contractor. As with the historical Chirol, he has traveled to over two dozen countries and lived abroad for many years. Chirol speaks English and German fluently with basic knowledge of manyl of others.
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3 Responses to Kaplan on Bush/Obama

  1. Sejo says:

    I got to know tish great blog of yours while looking for Kaplan’s essays online, and never left since. Again, I enjoyed this article – although I may not comprehend all the subtleties of USA politics: as an European, I find obvious the existence of a national public health care so I cannot appreciate the ongoing debate fully. A shame.
    Otherwise, I thought that the appointment of McChrystal as head of operations in Afghanistan meant the adoption of the Petraeus doctrine – therefore, in a way or another, the continuation of at least the military approach of the last administration. Obviously, I can spot the differences in foreign politics: if Bush forgot Israel, Obama is certainly not a partner for Netanyahu. Still, we’ve got to consider that it seems that none in the world likes Bibi and his government, well, isn’t exactly what I could call a coherent one.
    Maybe someone could explain better the debate going on in the States? Lexington, perhaps?
    By the way, congratulations and the best of luck to Chirol.

  2. “Lexington, perhaps?”

    I lack expertise on the healthcare debate, frankly.

    I think the best place to look is at Megan McArdle’s posts in the last few months about the healthcare debate.


    She is knowledgeable, has common sense, writes clearly and is not partisan or emotional.

  3. Sejo says:

    Thank you very much, Lexington Green.