George H.W. Bush’s Legacy on Radical Islam

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George Bush, Sr. visiting Pakistani earthquake victims in 2006 (Photo; John Moore/Getty Images)
George Bush, Sr. visiting Pakistani earthquake victims in 2006 (Photo; John Moore/Getty Images)

Upon the passing of former president George H.W. Bush, there has been much speculation about the influence of the 41st president of the United States; however, one area that’s largely been overlooked is George H.W. Bush’s legacy on radical Islam.

While it was his son, 43rd president George W. Bush, who is more renown for his impact on the “War on Terror” due to the attacks and aftermath of September 11, 2001, Bush Sr.’s footprint on the rising tide of radical Islam should not be overlooked, especially since it serves as a guide for future leadership.

During his tenure from 1989-93, the landscape regarding radical Islam presented to George H.W. Bush wasn’t one of certainty. Through his presidential years, Bush, Sr. showed reserve.

As a refresher, the events that defined George H.W. Bush’s administration were (1) the fall of the Berlin Wall, which served as a preamble for the soft fall of the USSR, and (2) the first Gulf War.

The former president had a very soft foot print during the collapse of the USSR, resulting in the peaceful end of the Cold War without entering into further conflict. The question that needs to be asked is: Was Bush, Sr. smart to leave Saddam in Iraq and scale back U.S. presence in the region?

Benefiting from 20/20 hindsight, it’s safe to say he was smart to not create a power vacuum, the devastating effect of which we have seen in the years to follow under the leadership of subsequent presidents. The decades of failure in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown that the United States does not have the will to make a generational commitment that nation building requires.

The successful policy of Bush, Sr. in pursuing limited intervention, contrasted with the failed policy of his son which has led to a decades-long quagmire in which neither victory nor withdrawal are viable options.

The criticism surfacing in the wake of George H.W. Bush’s passing have pointed to atrocities in the Gulf War, as there are in any war. However, it’s important to remember that the secretary of defense at the time was Dick Cheney. While Bush should be held accountable, Cheney’s decisions should also be reviewed.

Arguably, Cheney (who served under both Bush, Sr. and Bush, Jr.) is responsible for much of the poor policy that resulted from the two Bush presidencies.



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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.