His Greatest Achievement

In the Wall Street Journal, Thane Rosenbaum writes:

With President Bush-bashing still a national pastime, it’s notable how much international terrorism has been forgotten, and how little credit the president has received for keeping Americans safe.

This is a difficult issue for me. I didn’t vote for President Bush – twice. And as a human-rights law professor, the events at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, along with various elements of the Patriot Act and the National Security Agency’s wiretapping of Americans, are all greatly troubling to me.

But:

…Yes, there are those who maintain that our promiscuous misadventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel have rendered America even less safe. That the president has further radicalized our enemies and alienated our nation. That the animosity for America now, improbably, runs even deeper. Whatever resentments and aspirations gave rise to 9/11 have grown and will not be easily dissipated. For this reason, no one should draw comfort in the relative safety of our shores.

Maybe so. But when a professed enemy succeeds as wildly as al Qaeda did on 9/11, and seven years pass without an incident, there are two reasonable conclusions: Either, despite all the trash-talking videos, they have been taking a long, leisurely breather; or, something serious has been done to thwart and disable their operations. Whatever combination of psychology and insanity motivates a terrorist to blow himself up is not within my range of experience, but I’m betting the aggressive measures the president took, and the unequivocal message he sent, might have had something to do with it.

Americans, admittedly, have short time horizons and, perhaps, even shorter attention spans. Our collective memory has historically been poor. But had there been another terrorist attack or, even worse, a dozen more in cities all over America – a fear that would not have been exaggerated on 9/12 – would we have allowed ourselves the luxury of quarreling over legally suspect counterterrorism measures, even though such internal debates are credits to our liberal democracy and constitutional freedoms?

Terrorism is now largely off the table in the minds of most Americans.

But in gearing up to elect a new president, we are left to wonder how, in spite of numerous failed policies and poor judgement, President Bush’s greatest achievement was denied to him by people who ungratefully availed themselves of the protection that his administration provided.

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