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Why doesn't Bush get more credit?

His bold efforts for freedom were met with scorn.

By John Hughes / January 8, 2009

Provo, Utah

President Bush is moving reflectively through his final days in office, in various interviews putting the best face on a presidency that has garnered some of the worst presidential approval ratings from Americans in history.

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The reviews from non-Americans, from Venezuela to Vladivostok, are not much better.

Whether Mr. Bush, like Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan, will in time come to be more favorably regarded than he was during his presidency, only history will reveal.

Much depends on whether Iraq – currently enjoying a new and boisterous kind of democracy – courtesy of American arms and diplomacy, sinks back into a dysfunctional state, or encourages larger freedom throughout the Arab world.

Sadly, Bush currently seems to get little credit for ridding the world of Saddam Hussein, surely one of the world's most fearsome despots since Adolf Hitler.

Nor is there much praise for his oft-voiced calls for democracy among the presently unfree peoples around the world, a campaign that he made the centerpiece of his foreign policy. One might have hoped that such calls would receive widespread acclaim and action except from a few dictatorial rulers such as those of North Korea, Iran, China, Russia, Burma (Myanmar), Zimbabwe, and a few Arab states.

Such was not the case and the reasons for this are several.

First, there was resentment at the manner of the demands. They were interpreted as an imperious diktat from a powerful America. Richard Nixon may not have been everyone's favorite president but he did understand the art of international politics when he warned against "the condescending policies of paternalism."

Second, although the invasion of Iraq was of noble intent for many, it was succeeded by a slew of post-war political and economic blunders that made it a poor example of American nation-building.

Third, the Bush administration sanctioned wartime measures seen as a contradiction of the ideals President Bush preached abroad. The names "Abu Ghraib" and "Guantánamo" became a tragic indictment of what was perceived to be inhumane American treatment of human beings.