National Unity on Foreign Policy
The laying of a wreath at the American embassy in Dar es Salaam Tuesday symbolized a big theme of both the Barack Obama and George W Bush administrations: The war against al Qaeda.
President Obama was warmly greeted by throngs in Tanzania, but his message of trade was overshadowed by other events around the world.
The two men met in Tanzania to to honor the memories of the 224 people – 12 of them Americans – killed by al Qaeda truck bombs at that embassy and the one in Nairobi, Kenya, on Aug. 7, 1998.
Osama bin Laden’s embassy attacks were precursors of 9/11; signals, unmistakable in retrospect, that bin Laden and his allies had launched a new kind of war.
For both friends and foes Bush’s handling of all that occurred after Sept. 11, 2001, will be the major part of his legacy, a legacy about which Bush said in an interview with CNN Monday he wasn’t worried:
“history will judge the decisions that I made. And I won't be around because it's going to take a while for the objective historians to show up.”
But in dealing with al Qaeda, Obama hasn’t turned out to be exactly what his supporters expected in 2008.
Obama expanded Bush’s strategy of using unmanned drones to kill suspected terrorists in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.
There’s continuity with President Bill Clinton, too. Clinton tried to kill bin Laden after the 1998 embassy attacks with a cruise missile strike in Afghanistan – not so different from a drone strike.
Bush – who has been circumspect and has said almost nothing about terrorism since leaving office – has not only refrained from criticizing his successor, but on Monday essentially endorsed Obama’s handling of the NSA/ Snowden mess.
“I know he (Snowden) damaged the country. The Obama administration will deal with it,” the former president said.
Asked about the NSA surveillance, Bush said,“I put the program in place to protect the country and one of the certainties is civil liberties were guaranteed.”
He added,“I think there needs to be a balance (between individual liberty and national security) and as the president (Obama) described, there is a proper balance.”
Obama, he said magnanimously, has “got plenty on his agenda and it's difficult. A former president doesn't need to make it harder” by criticizing him.
In his National Defense University speech, Obama said that “this war, like all wars, must end,” but the war which included the 1998 embassy bombings will likely continue after Obama leaves the White House.