Osama, Obama, and Bush

Osama (or suddenly for some reason “Usama” if you prefer) bin Laden was killed just a few days ago, and I was surprised and amused (at first) by the suggestion that George W. Bush actually deserves credit for this.  It was Bush’s plan to go after bin Laden, the argument goes, Obama was just the caretaker of it.  My first thought was that the easy counter-argument is Bush spent almost eight years on this and didn’t get it done.  Obama took care of business in less that two and a half.

Then again…

Obama doesn’t necessarily deserve MORE credit than Bush insofar as our current President didn’t come up with some breathtaking new approach that led to success.  Here’s another part of the equation that resonates with me as a historian.  I tell my students that America put men on the moon during Richard Nixon’s administration, but John Kennedy deserves credit because he had the vision and got the ball rolling.  By my own logic here, one could argue that Bush did the same thing regarding bin Laden.

In related news, President Obama does not want to give the impression that the United States is gloating over bin Laden’s death.  Certainly there is a downside to looking like arrogant Americans.  George W. Bush came to regret telling terrorists to “bring it on” in Iraq.  The flip side of our current situation, though, is that we don’t want to project an image of fear.   Bush’s line was indelicate, but did it make terrorists who wanted to kill Americans suddenly hate us more?

Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States.  That war is not over, but an important battle was won.