The Iraq war dominated his presidency, but it isn't the only signature foreign-policy event of his tenure.
The unfinished Iraq war – from its staggering cost to the way it distracted America from other global issues to its unintended result of elevating Iran as a regional power – has come to define the Bush presidency, at least in the arena of international affairs. If a stable and relatively democratic Iraq eventually emerges from the initially chaotic venture, Mr. Bush's stock – and his legacy – will rise.
But as of this moment, the president's venture in Iraq is described variously as "a colossal blunder" and, a bit more charitably, as a failure to recognize the advent of a geopolitical shift in which superpower muscularity was giving way to a more multipolar world.
"The world has been going through a historical switching point in terms of the diffusion of power, the rise of new players, and the redistribution of global wealth, but the Bush administration has not afforded [that development] much attention," says Charles Kupchan, a foreign-policy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations here. "The Bush years mired the United States in Iraq with a war reflecting a faith in American superiority that, in the end, distracted the country from addressing the broader changes going on around it."