Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Legacy of W as President

It is time to reflect on the legacy of George W. Bush. He originally promised to reach across the aisle to all parties to work for the common good. If unity was to be the mantra of his administration, he failed miserably. The brief consensus after 9/11 was permanently erased by the Iraq war. Now his legacy will be defined by the ultimate consequences of the war he started.

W certainly made some monumental mistakes. His sabre rattling “axis of evil” State of the Union speech in January 2002 irretrievably placed the US in a hostile, almost warlike, stance against Iraq, Iran, and Korea. This country had neither the resources nor the political will take on those three regimes simultaneously in addition to much unfinished business in Afghanistan. In the end he chose to invade Iraq, which proved to be all this country was prepared to handle. Reagan’s strength was his ability to use power. Every one knew that when he made a threat, he was prepared to carry it out. Even the most powerful country in the world is weakened when it expends much of its energy and resources on a war that does not produce the expected results.

Second, he, or at least Cheney, claimed that the Iraqis would welcome the US in open arms because of the tyranny of Sadam. W should have talked to his father who made the same mistake in Somalia. The fact is that people fight with unrestrained determination on their own soil . I know of no example where a foreign power sought to dislodge a domestic government and did not meet the fierce resistance of the people. There may be some, but I cannot recall.

Third, he thought he could turn Iraq into a western style democracy, reversing thousands of years of nomadic culture which operate under paradigms quite opposed to democracy. Other colonial powers had tried and failed to westernize the Middle East. He thought he could do better, and he fought a war with an unrealistic goal.

All that being said, do we conclude that W was the worst president in American History, as Senator Harry Reed proudly declares? Not so fast. Opponents of the War blandly seem to assume that the Middle East would somehow have muddled along quite nicely without the American intervention. W should be measured by a comparison of where we are with where we would have been if the Iraq War had never happened. This involves a lot of speculation, but there are clues worth looking at.

In the first place, if America had known the day after 9/11 that there would be no further terrorist attacks on its soil for the next seven years, we would have been inclined to canonize W. Now that this has been accomplished, the feat is pooh poohed. With all the bumbling, W put the terrorists on the defensive, and at least they are trying to infiltrate Iraq rather than New Jersey.

Moreover, W has turned over to Obama a vastly improved military and intelligence community adept in combating terrorism. With all the talk about how W is disliked in Europe, I get the impression that the European military and intelligence communities work very closely with us to repel terrorist threats. and that the coordinated efforts of the western democracies is a formidable force that has been highly deterrent against the terrorists.

Furthermore, we can assume that Sadam would still be alive doing his thing. He obviously had imperialistic ambitions. He had already engaged in a bloody eight year war with Iran and invaded Kuwait. He had an aggressive missile development program, which evidenced a desire to dominate the Middle East militarily. His destabilization potential was immense.

I do not believe that history will fully excuse W from some of his mistakes. Nevertheless, there is a good possibility that when future generations will that his administration responded well to the changes in military goals and strategies needed to counteract terrorism. If so, many of his miscues will not loom as large as being characterized by his contemporary critics.

1 comment:

clark said...

I read your defense of W, and disagree: he is absolutely the worst president in all U.S. history... the war in Iraq destroyed our military power; it didn't improve it... he broke U.S. laws by spying on American citizens, broke international law by institutionalizing torture as the primary American interrogation method... he broke humane and moral laws by the same... he destroyed our economy by preventing enforcement of anti-trust regulations (nothing should be too big to fail and look at us now) and preventing regulation or oversight of any kind of rogue companies and Bernie Madofs... destroyed out natural resources and gave away valuable property and mineral rights to mining and energy companies (that could at least have brought in huge govt. revenue if fair value had been charged)... it goes on and on.

And he didn't fix the Middle East; he blew it up. Iraq was a secular state that was a buffer and enemy of its neighboring Islamic sates; Bush/Cheney handed the Middle East to the crazies in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Sadam will be replaced with another dictator, only one controlled by the new power in the ME, Iran.

The idea that fighting in Iraq kept terrorists too busy to commit terrorist acts here is ludicrous. It was a great recruiting and training ground for them and greatly increased there numbers and followers around the world.

By letting the Taliban move into Pakistan, Bush handed the nuclear bomb to our worst enemies.

If you remember the movie "Animal House," you will recall the character Bluto played by John Belushi, the drunk, stupid, frat boy who later becomes a Congressman. For eight years Bluto-Bush has had one big frat party and the kegs run dry. And we have to live in the puke he left behind.

Aren't you glad I'm reading your blog?