POLS 321 – AF
“Easier Said Than Done”
Researching foreign policy comparisons between George W. Bush and Barack Obama turns out to be quite the depressing venture for someone who fell in love with our current president during his first race for president. From Iraq to Afghanistan to nuclear proliferation, Obama’s 2008 campaign took every opportunity to distance his policies with those of Bush due to public displeasure and ideological differences. After seeing Obama’s first term and the various foreign policy issues he has faced, there are ways Obama has kept his promise and distance from the Bush administration, but he has also continued several key components of the “Bush Doctrine,” being unable to ‘walk his talk.’ I argue that in the case of drone usage as a form of imminent threat defense, Obama is using legal defense started by the Bush administration and continuing to arm Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’s (UAV’s) in order to wage war on terrorism. However, the current president has moved away from Bush’s reliance on unilateralism to solve world conflict, especially in Libya. I will first introduce the legality of the use of drones and how Obama has built off Bush-era arguments, and then move to Libya and highlight the current administrations push for multilateralism in a post-Bush world.
In order to provide a short roadmap of the essay to follow, I’ll provide a short summary of the necessary points. First, I will discuss Obama’s continuation of Bush’s use of drones in war. The continuation is based on the legal principle Bush created which enabled this use, a principle Obama has stood behind. Second, I will detail a divergence Obama’s administration took from Bush’s policies in the form of multilateralist approaches to foreign conflict. The definition I have used for multilateralism is a campaign or intervention is a campaign or intervention with shared responsibility amongst several different parties or nations. In the case of Bush, his policy are seen as more unilateral, or operations led substantially by only one group without committed cooperation from other groups. There are several examples of this throughout the last four years, so I will focus on solely the Libyan intervention for brevity. Then I will wrap everything up in a short conclusion.
Building a case for drone usage in the War on Terror was very much a cornerstone of the 43rd President of the United States. During a speech at West Point, Bush warned, “if we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.” (11) Beginning in 2004 as part of the “Bush Doctrine,” drone strikes have been carried out in Northwest Pakistan and areas of Yemen and Somalia as a means to limit American casualties. (3) According to current CIA director John Brennan: “They dramatically reduce the danger to US personnel and to innocent civilians, especially considered against massive ordnance that can cause injury and death far beyond the intended target.” (9) Due to the elimination of risk to human life drones provide, the number of drone strikes has increased exponentially since Obama took office, soaring from a five year total of 44 in five Bush years to 200 in three years under Obama. (4) Using this defense as a military strategy, there is little argument drone strikes can keep American soldiers safer. What allowed for a true continuance of unmanned air strikes is the legal precedent that Bush was able to establish and hand down to Obama.
With recent concern caused by the drone killing of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Congress has put Obama’s legal defense to the test. The strikes are defended in two forums, one solid and the other fairly grey. In the instance of targeting Al-Qaeda, the mutual state of war with their organization allows for any and all uses of forces in order to defeat enemy combatants. The second defense comes from the imminent threat aspect of international self-defense. According to international law, the...