- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dogged critics of President George W. Bush’s foreign policies suddenly have found that managing the world, and radical Islam, is not as easy as it looked from the outside six or more years ago.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, as a senator and ex-senator, was perhaps Mr. Bush’s most punishing reviewer. He said of the Bush administration in 2007: “It is my opinion that this is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I’ve ever seen personally or ever read about — the most arrogant in history.”

At the Council on Foreign Relations in a talk on national security, he said: “I would rate this one the lowest in capacity, in capability, in policy, in consensus — almost every area, I would give it the lowest grade.”

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Last week, nearly six years into the Obama administration, Mr. Hagel addressed troops and said, “The world is exploding all over.”

In July, he told a troop gathering, “The Middle East is blowing up.”

Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. (Associated Press)
Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. (Associated Press) more >

Madeleine K. Albright, President Clinton’s secretary of state, gave a series of speeches during Mr. Bush’s two terms characterizing him as the worst foreign policy president ever.

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“I, personally, have never seen the world in such a mess,” she told a gathering in 2008.

Last month, on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Mrs. Albright said, “To put it mildly, the world is a mess.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s first secretary of state, was also a fierce Bush critic. Today, she laments the president’s Syria policy as paving the way for the rise of the Islamic State group.

Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and an analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, took note of Mr. Hagel’s and Mrs. Albright’s current views and said: “The problem with self-described realists is that they were always so unrealistic. They actually believed what America’s enemies told us, and didn’t realize that for so many rogues, diplomacy is just an asymmetric warfare strategy meant to tie America’s hands.”

Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy under Mr. Bush, said: “President Obama and his team came to office believing many things about national security policy that have since been contradicted by events. Our disengagement from the world does not simply ensure that other states with similar interests will step forward to play the roles that we’ve traditionally played, as the disintegration of Syria and Iraq show.”

Mr. Obama today finds himself the brunt of Republican, and sometimes Democratic, attacks on his policies in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Ukraine and other hot spots.

Mr. Bush launched combat operations in two countries in the war on terrorism, but Mr. Obama has boasted about troop withdrawals. “I was elected to end wars, not start ‘em,” he said.

As the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, Secretary of State John F. Kerry characterized President Bashar Assad as a leader the U.S. could deal with. Months later, after Mr. Assad’s forces killed thousands of civilians, Mr. Kerry called him a “thug and a murderer.”

The administration was split on the issue of providing arms to the Free Syrian Army to fight both Mr. Assad and Islamic jihadists.

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