A Comparison of Bush and Obama’s Counterterrorism Policies

My research topic will be a comparison of President Bush’s and President Obama’s counterterrorism policies.  While I have barely started the research process I have thus far found that Obama has largely continued Bush’s legal strategies and policy choices even though many people thought that during the campaign Obama would move in a completely different direction from his predecessor.

While counterterrorism policies and situations are very fluid and subject to constant refinement, it appears the broad contours of Obama’s national security choices are directly from the Bush doctrine.  In my opinion, the assassination of Osama bin Laden was a tangible example of the similarities between the two administrations.  On the surface, it was instructive that President Obama felt the moral obligation to call President Bush prior to the Navy SEALs mission.   More importantly, the fact that Obama was so invested in capturing or killing bin Laden proves how linked the two administrations’ goals and priorities truly are.

My thesis will also attempt to prove that the similarities between the two presidents are not terribly surprising when one examines how Bush became more centrist and broke from Vice President Cheney’s extremely hawkish school of thought during his second term.  Furthermore, because of Obama’s political philosophy, which favors deliberative democracy and a realpolitik style, it makes sense that Obama would be very calculating in which policies to maintain from past president’s instead of simply acquiescing to the liberal versus conservative binary that many expect lawmakers to follow.

As I write my paper, it will be interesting to view America’s national security policy history from a non-partisan perspective, which seems to rarely happen in academia and especially the news.  As such, it will probably be difficult to keep my opinions repressed while researching this controversial topic.


About adsommer

University of Wisconsin, Madison Graduation: May 2012 Major: Political Science Research topic: Counterterrorism policies in the Obama administration
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One Response to A Comparison of Bush and Obama’s Counterterrorism Policies

  1. Kirstin says:

    You’ve picked a challenging, interesting and very broad topic. There are so many ways you could go with this, which will make it exciting as you read more authors and more primary sources…you may find yourself constantly changing your thoughts on this.

    Transitions from one administration to another are rarely watershed events in the way international politics play out. There are approximately eleventy billion books on what informs US foreign policy, what motivates presidents, and exactly how much control a president has.

    For some resources from the journal, Presidential Studies Quarterly, consider:
    “Crisis Management at the Dead Center: The 1960-1961 Presidential Transition and the Bay of Pigs Fiasco” by Rebecca R. Friedman

    The second one, while focused on the Eisenhower to Kennedy transition, can shed some light on the challenges faced when considering bureaucratic momentum.

    Also, I did an internship at State Department a while back, and one of the most interesting things said to me was that these Foreign Service Officers know more about international relations than the president, because he is only dealing with it for 4 to 8 years and then is done. One FSO I know had been in the service since his twenties, was forced to retire at the age of 65 and is still working for State as a contracted employee.

    The point is that a president’s decision is largely dependent upon the bureaucratic employees and the information supplied up the food chain. The same can be said for long-term bureau/agency/department leaders who have direct access to the president’s ear. They may out-serve a number of presidents, but their convictions and what they believe is true about a given mission will be favored when options are considered for further action. Perhaps this is the reason you never see a complete break on foreign policy initiatives.

    Books to consider on the nature of the formulation of foreign policy are:

    Andrew Bacevich, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
    Robert Dallek, The American Style of Foreign Policy
    Michael Hunt, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy
    Akira Iriye, Cultural Internationalism and World Order
    Walter LaFeber, The New Empire
    Lauren, Craig, and George, Force and Statecraft
    Thomas McCormick, America’s Half Century: United States Foreign Policy in the Cold War
    Frank Ninkovich, The Wilsonian Century
    Emily Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream
    William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy

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