While the two most recent American Presidents are polar opposites in respect to character, economic policies and political beliefs, they aren’t as far apart as most think when it comes to warfare. George W. Bush believed in openly flexing America’s military muscle by taking the mallet-to-the-head approach against enemies, which is messy. Barack Obama is more subtle, but just as dangerous. He keeps his military aggression quiet, opting to go the way of the knife.
Bush was instrumental in building a global coalition in Afghanistan against the Taliban. Obama has now successfully put together a broad coalition of his own against ISIS in Iraq. Obama and Bush relied heavily on England’s support right out of the gates in order to build momentum for their coalitions. Blair revered Bush while Cameron seems to idolize Obama.
Both Bush and Obama identified America’s primary enemy as Islamic extremists (Bush wasn’t afraid to use those words, unlike Obama who worries about offending Muslims) and waged wars in the name of degrading these terrorists. While Bush wasn’t afraid to put ‘boots on the ground,’ Obama has avoided using that classification in Iraq, to this point, by sending in private military contractors (which was a tactic reinvigorated by Bush after 9/11) and Special Forces in lieu of the army and marines.
The two Presidents’ rhetoric was very different before starting wars, but their actions are not far apart. Bush was more open about his military plans than Obama has been. However, an argument can be made that Obama has been more aggressive in the Middle East and Northern Africa against rogue Islamic terrorists than Bush. The media just doesn’t report Obama’s tactics, enabling him to maintain his anti-war persona.
Shortly before Bush took office in 2001, the advancement of drone warfare technology reached a point where the US military was comfortable using it for an inaugural mission. After 9/11, Bush began to loosen up the CIA’s restrictions on assassinations and encouraged it, along with the Pentagon, to start pushing the limits on what these drones could do. Years later, and after many successful assassinations of Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Bush administration started using the CIA as its own personal hit squad in special circumstances against Taliban leaders. Under Bush, the CIA went from a rather restricted spying agency, to a bureaucracy that was directly responsible for daily White House briefings and implementing US warfare strategy. They were even used to create propaganda video games intended for Middle-Eastern youth, which portrayed American soldiers in a positive way. However, with Rumsfeld running the Pentagon, the CIA wasn’t given full reign on the war on terror. That didn’t come until Obama took office.
Under the Obama administration, the CIA has become the most powerful and dangerous organization in the world. If they want someone dead, be it on the battle field or in some little-known country, it’s a done deal. Using drones, the CIA killed four American citizens (homegrown terrorists) living abroad. The most known American citizen killed was Anwar al Awlaki, a radical extremist.
Under Bush, the Pentagon, for the most part, still ran things when it came to military attacks, and drone strikes were used conservatively by the CIA. Under Obama, Chuck Hagel, the current Secretary of Defense, plays second fiddle now to John Brennan, head of the CIA. This works in Obama’s favor because the CIA is more covert than the Pentagon. Using the Pentagon requires political support, which results in media attention; whereas using the CIA to kill enemies is often classified and allows Obama to maintain his anti-war persona while offing terrorists across the world, whenever he sees fit.
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According to New America Foundation, CIA drone strikes in Pakistan authorized under the Bush Administration amounted to approximately 50. Under Obama, to date, that number is nearly 320. In Yemen, Obama has almost solely relied on drone warfare to take out Islamic extremists. Bush didn’t conduct any drone attacks or bombings in that country. Furthermore, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker stated that Obama has bombed more countries than Bush did.
According to Lizza, Obama authorized bombings, or drone attacks, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria. Bush authorized attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia. 7 to 4 in favor of Obama…and the world is more dangerous now than it was at the beginning of this administration, which means it is plausible that more countries could be added to Obama’s list.