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What Obama Gets Wrong

No Retreat, No Surrender

Red lines: a mural on a government building in Tehran, October 2011. Morteza Nikoubazl / Courtesy Reuters

Gideon Rose’s intriguing essay on President Barack Obama’s foreign policy raises a vexing question: When does the statute of limitations on blaming President George W. Bush for the record of the current administration finally expire?

Rose devotes much of his article to rehearsing a litany of the Bush administration’s sins in an effort to persuade readers that Obama inherited a uniquely bad set of cards when he came to the White House—a “mess,” as the president liked to say—and must therefore be judged accordingly. But this is doubtful as a matter of history and past its sell-by date as a form of apology.

Every president inherits a mixed bag when he comes to office, and Obama’s was hardly the worst. Yes, he became president in the midst of a steep economic downdraft. But so did Bush after the bursting of the dot-com bubble (compounded

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