Former President George W. Bush said Thursday that America must remain vigilant in the fight against Islamic terrorism because a healthy democracy may take decades to take root in Iraq.
"I know the nature of the enemy. Anybody who kills 3,000 innocents and beheads people because of their religion or because of their point of view is dangerous, and there is a short-term strategy which is to bring them to justice and a long-term strategy which is to encourage free societies to prevail so as to marginalize their ideology," Bush said in an interview with Fox News.
"The long-term strategy takes time," he added. "And I tell people all the time, off the record, by the way, that [former Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice's relatives were enslaved in the greatest democracy ever for 100 years, and democracy takes time to take hold. And yet there is an impatience with that process, and Americans have got to understand that the lesson of 9/11 is still important today as it was right after 9/11, and that is the human condition elsewhere matters to our national security."
Bush said he agreed with Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in his assessment that the U.S. should have left a residual force of 10,000 to 15,000 troops in Iraq -- prior to the rise of the Islamic State. But the former president declined to criticize President Barack Obama for the current situation in the war-torn country.
"I'm not going to second guess our president, I understand how tough the job is," Bush said. "To have a former president bloviating and second guessing, I don't think is good for the presidency or the country. He and his team will make the best informed decision they can make."
Bush signed the status of forces agreement in 2008 setting a deadline for withdrawing from Iraq no later than December 31, 2011. Discussions between the Obama administration and the Iraqi government on another status of forces agreement later fell through after the Iraqis balked at a provision granting U.S. troops immunity from prosecution after 2011.
In the Fox News interview, Bush recalled how he would phone his predecessor, former President Bill Clinton, for advice while in office. Asked whether Obama did the same, Bush said he did not.
"Well, he called me to tell me that SEAL Team 6 got Osama bin Laden," he said. "He has not [called] on a regular basis. Which is OK, it doesn't hurt my feelings."