Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bush's Likely Historical Verdict

Here was my assessment of how Bush will be viewed with time and some perspective, made in a comment to the Al Gore gone wild post:

How history treats him will depend exclusively upon what Iraq looks like in ten years. It is likely that other nations in the middle east will be similar, for better or for worse. I think it is too early to tell. But in the end, if he gets through his term without another terrorist attack, no one can argue that he hasn't protected the country adquately. Recall September 12th - where would you have placed the odds that we'd go this long without any successful attack on US soil?

Here is James Taranto, of the Wall Street Journal, clearly cribbing my blog:

The reality is that President Bush's legacy will be judged on two things: whether America is successful in Iraq, and, if so, whether success in Iraq helps promote democracy and discourage terrorism elsewhere in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

If the former happens, history will recognize Bush as a near-great president; if the latter, as a great one. That's why Bush's foes in politics and in the media, here in America and overseas, have, with unseemly eagerness and impatience, embraced the idea that America is destined to fail in Iraq. And it is why they have to be feeling pretty blue after Saturday's successful constitutional referendum in Iraq.

What he added to my comments deserves further reflection: that Bush's foes have embraced the idea that America is destined to fail in Iraq with unseemly eagerness and impatience. As an example of this, consider the comments made by the Pulvarizer after my comment above:

Pulvarizer said...
Well Hatcher, you, and the gang of Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz/Pearle better not hold your breath for a truly reformed and democratic Iraq, because democracies don't form well in such a religiously divided environment. Democracy depends on a willingness to accept opposing views, and some form of concensus (The Federalist Papers and opposing views held therein are a prime example.) Iraq won't be able to foster that type of political environment, the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds are too pitted against each other, and it will take more than 10 years to heal that wound. Britain, France, and the US were composed of fairly homogenous cultures/religions when their democracies were formed. When we forced democracy on Japan/South Korea, same thing, a homogenous society of similar religious backgrounds. Not true in Iraq, or across many Middle East nations. As an opposing example, take Pakistan/India and their fight over Kashmir, large populations of opposing cultures/religions creates instability. A truly stable and democratic Iraq that will one day thank us for invading in 2002 is a pipe dream, but I have a feeling 10 years from now neo-cons will still be saying, "Give it another 10 years, these things take time." Boy, I wish I could use that excuse for my failures.

Ultimately, the neo-con theory that we can forcefully export democracy will be put next to the failed Domino theory of the Cold War (both of which have remarkable similarities, which the neo-cons fail to recognize.) The U.S. #1 goal is to promote STABILITY, not democracy (Realpolitik). If we can help nuture democracies along the way, great, but forcing it down a society that isn't suited for it, nor asked for it, is destined for failure. The post 9/11 world has changed the focus, but NOT the fundamental calculus of world politics. Let's talk again in 10 years.

I'm not unsympathetic to these arguments; they are in fact the same arguments that the paleo-conservatives (like Pat Buchannan) make in opposition to this war, and it is rather telling that liberals are willing to agree with Buchannan under circumstances where they think they might score points against Bush. I'm not persuaded by this view, because while the possibility of reform in the Middle East may have affected the calculus of the decision to go to war, I think it was viewed as more of a potential fringe benefit as opposed to a primary reason to go. Once you've gone and deposed the former leadership, you have 2 choices - put in your own thug and get the stability, or try to use the opportunity for Iraqis to govern themselves democratically. We've chosen the harder and more noble course, and the last time I checked, there were no liberals applauding the stability America enjoyed from guys like Pinochet in Chile, or the Shah in Iran.

But look at the tone of the comments, and ask yourself what the Pulvarizer is actually rooting for? You may be of the opinion that going in was a mistake, but it is the opinion of even most Democratics in Congress that leaving now would be a mistake. How can they think that if there is not ample potential, in their view, for a positive outcome. As much as it may pain people to consider the possibility that we will be successful, and that as a result Bush will in time be viewed as a great president, why on earth would you be rooting for any other outcome? Success would clearly be better for both us and the Iraqis, and the cost of fairly would be borne disproportionately by the Iraqis.

Go to Poland, today, and ask what the man on the street thinks of Reagan. The praise such a question would garner would make a liberal cringe, and I don't think that it is entirely inaccurate to suggest that many liberals would rather the Soviet Union survived the Cold War if they could keep to their conviction that Reagan represented a great threat to liberty. I think the same applies to Bush - there are those who secretly say to themselves with a degree of self-satisfaction whenever there is a setback in Iraq -"see, I told you so." I'm not suggesting it is true of the Pulvarizer, but I am suggesting it is true of many. There was even a professor in an American university who expressed a desire for a thousand Mogadishus (Black Hawk down), where 18 or so Amercian soldiers died in efforts to keep a set of thugs from murdering their fellow countrymen.

Right now, of course, Bush's approval ratings are low, but this will mean nothing in 10 years. It is only natural that they'd be low in the midst of a bold foreign policy that places most of the costs upfront, with the benefits, if we should be fortunate enough for them to transpire, coming later. It's like asking Professor Vic, in the middle of taking the Macro prelim in grad school (for the first, second, or third time - take your pick), whether the decision to go to grad school was a good idea. Bush could have done a better job articulating the case for war, but in ten years, regardless of what he did or did not say, actual events will matter most; what people theorized would happen in 2003 will not matter at all unless they were accurate. And arguably there have already been substantial benefits - removal of Saddam, Khaddafi abandoning WMDs, positive developments in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Lebanon. Not sure that all of these things will play out, but I know what I'm rooting for, and I'd be rooting for it even if Clinton were at the helm. Well, maybe. But if I weren't, at least I'd acknowledge I'm a sick man.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

More racially insensitive postings please...less rambling about blog plagerism...


12:27 PM  
Blogger Professor Vic said...

I tend to agree with Hatch's analysis here: if things end up going well in Iraq, Bush will certainly go down as "not that bad." (It's the best I can do.)

I also completely agree with Hatch's on Poles' feelings on Reagan.

Here's a problem, however. In my real job as a soccer referee I get to meet lots of people from many ethic backgrounds. In talking with an Iranian at length last week, he said that in 2001, his liberal friends in Iran were saying that if Bush invaded Iran, they would welcome him as a savior from the oppressive theocracy of Iran. He asked his friends the same question last summer and they said after seeing what has happened in Iraq over the past 3 years, if the U.S. invaded Iran now, they would fight tooth and nail. Doesn't seem like we are headed in the right direction. At least it is not very clear cut.

Ok, I realize this is proof by anecdote, but what else is Political "Science" anyway?

12:29 PM  
Blogger Pulvarizer said...

Since I haven't been able to convince Hatcher to see things my way from an intellectual perspective, let him be aware that I have enlisted the services of Master Yang to help "persuade" him with good old ancient Chinese butt-kicking. Linking my thoughts with Pat, "why can't we build a Berlin Wall in Arizona" Buchannan, went too far, and now he must pay.

Hatcher knows me well enough that my arguments are derived not out of malice, or in hopes that the U.S. goes down in a ball of flames in Iraq just to see Bush suffer politically. Bush doesn't need the left's help in making him look like a boob, he does it well enough on his own. My arguments, for the most part, stem from a deep interest in world politics. I think pulling out of Iraq now, or any time in the near future would be a diaster, and would further damage not only our reputation, but our security. I do not root for these outcomes, as the consequences affect all Americans, on both the left and the right.

The point is, Bush should have seen this coming. There were plenty of people within his own State and Defense departments warning him before we went to war of the unlikely possibility of winning the hears and minds of Iraqis and Arab/Muslims in the Middle East in the aftermath of war. Installing democracy in Iraq is no doubt a more noble choice than installing a hardline puppet U.S. regime. But, it's a truly quixiotic undertaking, for reasons I explained previously. The instability this war has created in Iraq, and in nuturing a new generation of fundamentalist terrorists hell bent on killing Americans, outweights any noble desires Bush may have harbored. What's worse, this was predictable. Politics aside, from a Realpolitik point of view, that is incredibly naive and dangerous.

Hatcher draws an interesting analogy, that of the Polish people (let's just include all Eastern Europeans, because I'm sure they feel the same), and their affection for Reagan. Yes, Reagan played an important, albeit not a deciding, role in the USSR's demise, but that's another debate (the USSR was ready to collapse under its own weight anyway). But, Reagan also offered up the Iraqi's under Saddam, Chilean's under Pinochet, South African's under Apartheid, and many others in the name of anti-communism and stablity. Reagan is not the shinning beacon for freedom that the right likes to characterize him as, and that's fine, because you can't have your cake and eat it to in world politics, it's a very messy, and morally confounding game. However, Hatcher should ask himself this. Despite the left's dislike of Reagan, were his poll numbers ever in the dumps like Dubba-yah's due to his anti-communist strategy? I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing not. By and large, the American public supported Reagan during the late 80's because it believed in his foresight, ideals, and the way he was trying to accomplish his goals. The American public does not seem to have the same confidence in our current president's decision making abilities, or vision for the future. Same as when the American public distrusted LBJ during Vietman. If you want to enlist Reagan here, that is a distinction that cannot be overlooked.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to clearing that other problem in south asia known as Afghanistan ?
Heroin production is soaring, the budgeted (and paid for with my tax dollars) contracts for rebuilding have not been executed - that highway in Kabul is still in tatters - and the warlords really control that country.
What about Bin Laden ?
When will GW get back to attempting to catch the actual perpetrators of 9/11 ? Are we destined with getting the OJ defense of spending every waking moment hunting the real killer while getting kicked off the golf course ? Are we actually going to do something about terrorism except create more of them with this mess in Iraq ? Do we ever plan on sealing the Syrian boarder with Iraq ?

5:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to address something Pulvarizer said. he asked in Reagan's poll numbers were ever as low as W's. The answer is, yes. Every president since Carter has seen numbers as low as W's. Polls are just a snapshot in time. They can change overnight.

W's failings have not been in foreign policy. The real reason he went to war in Iraq is to distract the nutball terrorists. Those guys just want to kill Americans and are always looking for an easy target. Now they have less distance to travel. If we are forced to deal with these thugs, I would rather see attacks to armed military personel in the battlezone than unarmed civilians in Times Square.

Bush's failures have been in domestic policy. He just can't seem to contain spending. Why should we as citizens vote for a Republican if he is going to outspend the Democrats?

10:51 AM  
Blogger Pulvarizer said...

Anonymous, thanks for checking on the Reagan poll numbers. Should have done that myself first. However, I'd be interested in knowing if Reagan's poll numbers were so low due to domestic or foreign policies? I'll look into it.

Also, the ideas you offered about why we went to Iraq are interesting, but ones I don't find quite satisfying. First, pointing out something you had earlier, why not do the job thoroughly in Afghanistan (meaning finding and taking out Osama and every one of his top, middle and bottom lieutentant) and set up our mouse trap there instead of in Iraq? Why fight a two front war, a) when one is viewed as completely justified by 99.5% of the public, and the other is viewed as justified by far less, and b) when you don't have to. It's like picking a fight with your boss and your mother-in-law at the same time, which doesn't seem logical.

Second, if our troops in Iraq are there truly to act as a giant maganet for world wide terrorists, that contradicts the administrations statements that we're not there for long term nation building, or set up permanent camp. Surely you're not suggesting that we've substantially defeated world wide Islamic terrorism over these past few years, or in the next 1 - 2 years to come. This theory leads to the stark fact that a large # of US troops will have to remain in Iraq for the next 10 years at least to keep attracting and fighting terrorists, which in the end may create no net decrease in their actual #s, and the US will soon be seen as an occupying power by the Iraqis, where even the moderates will turn against us because we told them we'd leave after the elections and constitution are established. A majority of the American people have shown, and increasingly show, they are growing tired of spending billions of dollars in Iraq, especially in the wake of hurricane Katrina. This doesn't mean that I don't think we should leave, we SHOULD finish the job with elections and a national police force. However, no president will be able to justify staying in Iraq for more than 2 years (assuming elections and a viable police force are established), as it will cost them at the polls.

Third, if this is the true reason we went, just have Dubba-yah deliver a national address saying so. Want to bet how many times France, Germany, Russia and China support the US in another pre-emptive war based on a giant magnet policy??? Like it or not, unless there are truly imminent dangers faced by the US, going to war, like we did in Iraq, requires cooperation from our allies, in terms of economic, military, and espionage support. We are the greatest and mightiest nation on earth, but we still can't do it alone.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pulvarizer; well said. In the history of mondern warefare, I can think of only one nation that has won a two front war (U.S. WWII). Thus, history shows the Iraq invasion was a risky proposition at best.

With that said, I frimly believe the reason that we have not suffered a domestic terrorist attack is that all the terrorist lunitic fringe are now attracted to Bagdad instead of Times Square. (Why travel half way around the world to blow yourself up and get your 77 virgins when you can do it closer to home?) The reason the Bush administration can't come out and say that is the real reason we invaded, is that the strategy relies on the terrorists playing along. If they figure out we want them in Iraq, they will all come to the U.S. and start bombing shopping malls.

I also feel a democratic Iraq can be a catalyst for change in the Middle East. Kind of like a reverse Domino Theroy. Even if all the musliums in the Middle East still hate us, we as a nation are much better off dealing with a democracy that hates us,(for example, France) than a dictatorship that loves us (Pre Revolution Iran).

As far as doing it alone, with the exception of Britian and China, the nations of the world can only offer moral support to any war we enter into. They have not invested in military upgrades. Any action taken in the UN against us, or any other nation is toothless and sad. France and Germany really have no power in the world stage anymore.

Bush's real failings have been in domestic policy. One he voted in favor of the Steel Tarrif, he showed that he was willing to bend to the left if it suited him politically. He refuses to veto any spending bills that cross his desk, and passed one of the biggest entitlements this country has ever seen (the Prescription Drug Benefit). When he nominated Mieres, he lost a huge opportunity to stop judical legislation from the bench. Even his tax cuts will have to be repealed to correct his drunken spending ways. I hate to say it, especially since I voted for him twice, The Bush presidency has been a disappointment.

Oh well, at least with Bush in the White House, we got to see that Fat Blowhard Michael Moore eat crow. By the way Hatcher, did you see "Team America"? As must see for any true conservative.

4:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Hatcher when is the last time you actually WENT to Poland? Or was this also information acquired at a soccer game?

Mr. Walesa

8:15 AM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

Soccer game. Would you argue otherwise? I know it pains many to think that there are those across the world who have American Republicans to thank for their freedom, but it doesn't pain them.

9:35 AM  

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