Rupert Cornwell: When it comes to terrorism, Obama is following Bush's lead

The greater involvement of the US military in special operations has already led to complaints it could complicate relations with traditional allies in the Middle East, and perhaps deny captured American soldiers the protection of the Geneva conventions.

Above all, however, it underlines how, when it comes to terrorism and national security, President Obama is following, almost uncannily, in the footsteps of George W Bush.

Mr Bush had his 2007 "surge" in Iraq. Two years later, Mr Obama, confronted by a comparable dilemma in Afghanistan, did the same thing there.

This President came to office promising to talk to Iran. Now he has adopted the old Bush mix of sanctions, deadlines, and the threat of military action against Tehran if all else fails.

In Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, he has ordered an increase in the use of controversial drone strikes against terrorist targets, and recently authorised the CIA to kill the US-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

Even the language of the two men has similarities. Mr Bush famously denounced an "axis of evil". In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Mr Obama spoke of the existence "evil in the world".

And now the seal of approval for expanded special forces operations by the Pentagon, as advocated by none other than Donald Rumsfeld, once the Democrats' favourite bogeyman.

It all goes to show that Mr Obama is above all a realist and a pragmatist.

A President who came to office promising to work within international norms would surely have preferred to avoid a step that critics will inevitably liken to the high-handed unilateralist approach of Messrs Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.

But reality dictates otherwise. Politically, Mr Obama must be seen as tough on national security. And if the CIA has many critics, no one doubts the quality of the US military.