Primarily, both Bushes wanted to show the world that America is a powerful force with which to be reckoned -- even if not a single or sole superpower, a force that can at least militarily have its way in the world, especially with regard to rogue, weaker states.
Also, both Bushes believed in cut-and-dried reactions. Communism and Saddam Hussein are simply "bad" without complicating factors such as reasons or motivations for their actions. Going hand in hand with that assessment, communism and Saddam Hussein must be defeated thoroughly, recognizing that even small victories on the part of Iraq, for instance, could draw support to Hussein's ranks and erode America foreign policy world opinion.
However, that is where the similarities ended. For George Bush, the homeland in the United States was never under a serious threat. The most perilous years of the Cold War were behind America when Bush took the helm, so he could focus on American interests abroad and foreign countries' impact on the power of Americans to do business abroad.
His son, George W. Bush, does not have this leisure. The second Bush took to disarming Iraq with a fervor bordering on fanaticism: Lopez and Cortright write, "In Washington during the 1990s, each new weapons report was taken as confirmation of Saddam's perfidy rather than as a measure of success. There was a lingering belief that behind each new discovery lay more hidden contraband. Especially after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the achievements of UN disarmament were ignored, and Saddam's defiance was taken as confirmation that deadly stockpiles remained."
No, George W. Bush's foreign policy in the second Persian Gulf War was more an extension of fervent homeland defense. Indeed, this represented a theme. America attacked Iraq to protect its own borders, and most of America's foreign policy initiatives today perform the same function, or at leas purport to.
And George W. Bush has much support for this all-encompassing homeland security fervor. Even though none of Bush's reasons to enter the war with Iraq has been evinced, there is still significant popular support for the war and Bush's own administration has been unfaltering in its unwavering support for the conflict and its aftermath.
Janis asks whether defective decision making as a part of group-think might have played a role in such ostensible fiascos: " ... An essential step is to ascertain whether the failure of the in-group's policy was at least partly attributable to errors in decision-making rather than to other causes, such as unforeseeable accidents. In the case of the Watergate cover-up policy, practically all knowledgeable commentators, as well as the participants themselves, agree that Nixon and his in-group did a very poor job of decision-making. Nixon himself has acknowledged that the so-called containment policy was not carefully thought out."
That is where George W. Bush differs critically from Nixon, and even from his father. Throughout the Iraq crisis, no one in the Bush administration has admitted to a single error in decision making; indeed, their policy is likened by liberals and those generally against the war in Iraq to Nixon's containment without the responsibility and the culpability.
Bush's ostensible reasons for warring with Iraq were disproved, yet his administration still continues to trumpet those goals. The reason for this is simple: The Iraq war truly is an extension of homeland defense. America could not afford to be cowed in the world stage by upstart countries.
There, the Bushes are very similar. And to a certain extent, this bravado and confidence has worked for George W. Bush. Syria has abandoned Lebanon, there has not been a major terrorist attack in Western power since the Madrid bombings over a year ago, and America has not been the victim of a terrorist attack since that fateful day in 2001.
Bush would point to these facts as vindications of his and his father's cut-and-dried response to foreign policy. A very critical difference between father and son must be mentioned at this stage, however. Whereas George Bush courted the United Nations and sought a powerful coalition in the first Iraq war, George W. Bush has shown no desire to even brook the United Nations' input in this second Iraq war.
In fact, he has gone so far as the call the United Nations impotent and claimed that he would go forth with his policy initiatives -- even if they included war -- with or without the United Nations.
Furthermore, Bush even used Kerry's pandering to the United Nations as an attacking point during the presidential debates: As the world's only superpower, America cannot be pandering to anyone else to protect its borders, to protect its children and homes.
Much as Congress can use the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to legislate in almost every arena of private enterprise, the Bush administration is setting a new precedent: If homeland security is invoked, any foreign policy will stand any test as the goal is only to protect the United States from attack.
Though a very efficient set of policies, critics question whether the homeland security rationale is being used by the Bush administration to a much larger extent than can be justified.
Already speculation exists that the United States might attack Iran because it too has demonstrated that it may acquire weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, Iran seems farther along on that path than Iraq did. Under the homeland security doctrine, an invasion of Iraq without United Nations support would be feasible under the second Bush administration, but not under the first.
So, although there are many similarities between the two Bushes in their treatment of middle east crises, especially in the Persian Gulf -- an America-first attitude, a cut-and-dried response, and a desire to completely demolish weaker nations -- there are significant differences as well: First, George W. Bush deals with a greater sense of economic interdependence in the world, and second, he refuses to pander to world governing bodies as did his father: Homeland Security reigns supreme, even in the Persian Gulf.