The headline on NBC.com mentions that the war against al-Qaida will be at the forefront of a meeting Tuesday between the 43rd and 44th presidents of the United States.
George W. Bush and Barack Obama do share a common goal: to wipe the terrorist organization off the face of the planet.
President Bush’s remarks this morning on CNN suggest to me that he is far more willing to give his successor credit in that effort than many of Bush’s fellow Republicans. He talked of Obama’s handling of the Edward Snowden matter, and the leaks associated with the former National Security Agency contract employee. They relate directly and indirectly to the ongoing anti-terror war and whether the nation is protecting civil liberties in that endeavor.
Yes, al-Qaida does loom large over this meeting, which will occur in Tanzania, where Obama is concluding a three-nation tour of Africa and Bush is visiting on a humanitarian visit.
Although I have been an Obama cheerleader in the successful effort in May 2011 to kill Osama bin Laden – and give the president great credit in making that difficult call – I also must give great credit to the Bush national security team for the arduous work it did in gathering intelligence on bin Laden and then handing that knowledge over to the new team that took over in January 2009.
Did the Bush team conduct a flawless search? Well, no. It had bin Laden in its sights in Tora Bora, Afghanistan shortly after 9/11, but the terrorist got away. But it does no good to wonder what might have happened had some other administration been on call during that manhunt. The fact remains that the Bush administration was on duty and no amount of second-guessing would have changed the outcome.
And for his part, Barack Obama’s strategy of using drone strikes has drawn criticism from his left flank. That strategy, too, has produced some “collateral damage” in the form of civilian deaths. They also have killed many top al-Qaida leaders, decimating the top of the terrorist organization’s chain of command.
Bin Laden is dead. No matter what critics have said since then, al-Qaida’s effectiveness appears to have been diminished significantly since the nation went to war against that group of monsters.
These men – George Bush and Barack Obama – have a shared legacy that they will carry with them well past the time they both had to make the toughest calls imaginable.
Maybe one day, when they’re both a lot older, they’ll look back together and ruminate about all the things they’d have done differently.
I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the room when that conversation takes place.