Bush, Clausewitz, and Grand Strategic Imperatives: Keeping Political Ends Primary
As former President George W. Bush relinquished the reigns as Command¬er-in-Chief to President Barak Obama, it is fitting to reflect on how the US will remember Bush in years to come. Whether or not one agrees with his decision to commit U.S. forces to military action against Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath Party regime in Iraq, it is clear that Bush’s legacy will largely be determined by how Iraq turns out – as a stable, free, and peaceful democracy or something short of that. There is certainly plenty of room for continued improvement in the conditions on the ground and ample time for the political, security, and economic situation to further deteriorate. Yet, since the so-called ‘surge,’ and the change in US counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, developments have taken a fundamentally, and undeniably positive turn. It appears that a favorable out¬come is plausible, if not likely. The future of the global ‘war on terrorism’ under the Obama administration must, and certainly will, deviate in certain facets from the policies pursued by Bush. One of the primary ways in which Barak must differ from Bush is that he must implement a Clausewitzian perspective whereby political objectives clearly guide all his grand strategic decisions.3 During the pre-surge years, President Bush did not follow Clausewitz’s grand strategic imperative of first setting a clear political end that determines the means used to reach it.
The consequences were several lost years, fighting for a free, stable, and democratic Iraq with resources and means incommensurate with that end. Bush began to get it right with his new plan for Iraq. Obama must do likewise, despite facing a severe international economic recession among other pending crises.