What President Bush did right

Bush is exiting the presidency with a low popularity and little recognition of his accomplishments.

With public opinion polls low and the media and college students swooning over President Barack Obama, it is important to look back at the past eight years and examine the presidency of President George W. Bush. Many may criticize his deficit spending or the poor response surrounding Hurricane Katrina, but Bush has a lot to be proud of. History will look back and agree, just as it has with past presidents such as Harry Truman and Abraham Lincoln, both of whom exited the presidency with low popularity. Bush can look back at three accomplishments that will shape his profound legacy in history: In a post-Sept. 11 world, he has kept this country safe and secure. During his presidency, he has seen that a close relationship with a strong and healthy Africa is a beneficial one, and he has dedicated unprecedented targeted funding to strengthen the entire continent. Most of all, he will be remembered for having the courage to oppose public opinion and many experts and leaders in his decision to surge in Iraq, which has proved to be the riskiest but most noble of his decisions. One aspect of the Bush presidency that no American can deny is that our country has been kept safe and secure for the past seven years. In the wake of Sept. 11 which ultimately will define his presidency, he took it upon himself to make sure America would never have to suffer an attack on its soil again. Bush took up measures such as terrorist surveillance, enhanced interrogation techniques of terrorists and the USA PATRIOT Act to monitor suspicious activity and thwart terrorist attacks before they could happen. Additionally, he took on the fight with al-Qaida and provided a fierce response against the Taliban in Afghanistan; we were taking the fight to the terrorists across the globe so that we would not have to face them here at home. Many have criticized Bush for impeding our civil liberties by his actions, but one only has to look back on history to see similar sacrifices. For example, in order to preserve the Union, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in 1861; it was also suspended during and after World War II. Thus, in times of war, it is not uncommon to see necessary steps taken to secure the homeland, and Bush has succeeded in that goal and has returned a country, shocked by Sept. 11, back to normalcy. Another overlooked accomplishment of the former president was his dedication to creating and strengthening allies in the developing world, especially in Africa. He saw that a developed African continent leads to a safer, more prosperous and more generous America. A developed Africa will lead to responsible governments that do not harbor terrorists and to economically stronger countries that can trade in the global markets. It represents AmericaâÄôs moral responsibility to provide for those less fortunate. These are a few of the reasons that explain why Bush has an approval rating over 80 percent on the continent of Africa. BushâÄôs programs include the PresidentâÄôs Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Before PEPFAR, only 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa were receiving treatment for HIV and/or AIDS, and today there are nearly 1.68 million people being treated in the region; PEPFAR is the single greatest effort against a disease in international history, and itâÄôs an accomplishment the 43rd president can be proud of. The PresidentâÄôs Malaria Initiative has been helpful for the continent in fighting the horrible disease of malaria. Finally, the Millennium Challenge Account is a microfinance program that invests in over 35 nations across the world. It has involved targeting over $6 billion of financing to businesses and governments that promote positive change in the developing world. As history looks back, Bush will be credited with a better-developed, safer and prosperous international community. While American security and international development have been proud accomplishments, BushâÄôs toughest, most noble decision was the surge in Iraq. In January 2007, the Iraq War was going terribly; the Iraq Study Group had just recommended a withdrawal of troops, and the American people, in addition to many generals on the ground, were calling for an end to the war and an admission of defeat. But Bush decided to go against that strong wave of anti-war sentiment and instead of withdrawing troops, he took the opposite course and put more troops in with a different strategy; it was a decision that defined the Iraq War and much of his presidency. Bush sought out General David Petraeus, who developed a new counterinsurgency plan for Iraq. When considering the political winds that were blowing directly in his face at the time, this decision was nothing less than the most courageous of his presidency âÄî and he was right. As a result of the surge, we now see a safer, more secure Iraq allowing for a withdrawal of American troops in victory rather than defeat. And when history judges BushâÄôs Iraq War, the surge ought to be revered as much of a success as the situation preceding it was a failure. If Iraq is a strong ally of America and a beacon of hope for freedom and womenâÄôs rights in the Middle East in the next few decades, the country can thank BushâÄôs courage and determination to succeed. Bush was dealt a hand that no one expected on Sept. 11, 2001, and whether you agree with him or not, he has always looked at decisions as a matter of right or wrong, not left or right. Every decision he has made has, in his view, been in the best interest of the United States, and it would be shortsighted of Americans to ignore that as he vacates 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Americans everywhere should be appreciative of the man who gave his all to his country over the past eight years, and the nation should give him a proper send-off as a respected, honorable and courageous leader. This column was originally published in the Tufts Daily at Tufts University. Please send comments to [email protected]