In the current Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch argues that the Bush's presidency will leave us with four huge headaches:
The fiscal mess. Bush’s tax cuts and spending increases turned a $236 billion federal surplus in fiscal 2000 into a deficit of more than $400 billion four years later, an astonishing reversal. The current year’s deficit has been announced at something like $300 billion, but as Alan Sloan has pointed out: That's a lie.
The Iraq mess. The invasion was a gamble; the failure to scrub the prewar intelligence and properly manage the postwar occupation were mistakes. The gamble might still pay off, but the mistakes have astronomically raised the gamble’s cost in lives, money, prestige, and U.S. strategic focus and position (Iran has been the invasion’s signal beneficiary).
International opprobrium. The Iraq adventure fueled a decline in America’s image abroad, and Bush’s pugnacious style during his first term and his tin ear for foreign opinion made a bad situation worse. This is more than just a public-relations problem. National prestige is diplomatic capital; the more unpopular America becomes, the higher the price of foreign support. Mark Malloch Brown, the UN’s deputy secretary-general, recently said that suspicion of the United States has grown to the point where “many otherwise quite moderate countries” are inclined to oppose anything we favor.
An extralegal terrorism war. If the country seriously intends to prevent terrorism, then spying at home, detaining terror suspects, and conducting tough interrogations are practices that the government will need to engage in for many years to come. Instead of making proper legal provisions for those practices, Bush has run the war against jihadism out of his back pocket, as a permanent state of emergency. He engages in legal ad-hockery and trickery, treats Congress as a nuisance rather than a partner, and circumvents outmoded laws and treaties when he should be creating new ones. Of all Bush’s failings, his refusal to build durable underpinnings for what promises to be a long struggle is the most surprising, the most gratuitous, and potentially the most damaging, both to the sustainability of the antiterrorism effort and to the constitutional order.
This weekend, while the Jews were in shul, came news of a fifth headache. A new National Intelligence Estimate* says that the conflict in Iraq has invigorated Islamic radicalism,and , rather than being in retreat, it has metastasized and spread across the globe. Yup, that's right. According to Bush's own spies, his war has made us less safe. The "danger" he drones on about every two years when it's time to plump for votes was, to a large extent, caused by his own policies. Money quote:
(*National Intelligence Estimates are the most authoritative documents that the intelligence community produces on a specific national security issue, and are approved by John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence. Their conclusions are based on analysis of raw intelligence collected by all of the spy agencies, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government.)