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Take Note Obama: Bush One Would Go It Alone On ISIS, Biographer Says

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 17/11/2015 Howard Fineman

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama says he values the prudent example of the first President Bush as he confronts Middle East terrorism in his role as commander-in-chief.

But Obama may be surprised to learn that, in private, George H.W. Bush was willing to go it alone -- even risk impeachment -- to assemble the military might he needed to liberate Kuwait in 1990-91.

In Turkey on Monday, Obama told reporters that he was sticking with his strategy of relying on coalition partners, not U.S. troops, to carry the fight to ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Were Bush One in command now, he would be “preparing a coalition, but also preparing to go it alone,” his Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, Jon Meacham, told The Huffington Post.

The conventional narrative is that the elder Bush was cautious. He eschewed bellicose rhetoric, assembled a powerful military coalition, got strong, bipartisan congressional support and kept his aim -- liberating Kuwait from Iraq’s grip -- narrow.

By contrast, President George W. Bush was seen as a shoot-first commander who loved hot rhetoric, cowboy tactics and pipe dreams of remaking the region in the American image.

As a candidate, Obama rose to power by attacking Bush Two’s vision and, contrasting it with that of Bush’s own father.

But in Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, Meacham reports that the elder Bush would have ordered an all-out attack on Iraq’s occupying forces in Kuwait, even if he had had to do it without allies.

“One of the things you find is that on five different occasions,” Bush vowed privately to go it alone militarily and politically, even if he had risked being impeached had he done so.

And Bush One would have insisted that the U.S. be in the lead -- and not, as has been the case in the post-Paris response to ISIS -- essentially in a support role for the air force of France.

“He would be getting Putin involved,” said Meacham. But he “believed Americans had to be at the front of the line. He knew ultimately that the U.S. was going to have to invest the most.”

Watch the HuffPost Live interview with Meacham above.

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