Charles "Merkwürdigeliebe" Krauthammer, "The Bush Legacy". April 25
YOU wanna know how awful the human condition is? While I was opening this I actually entertained a small notion that Chuckles here might let Dubya have it right between those close-set smirky eyes.
I mean, really, what did he have to lose? Karl Rove wouldn't return his calls for two days? He wouldn't get invited to Crawford? What? Like George Eff Will, Chuckles occasionally says something sane just to make it sound like he thinks things over. The Republican party, if there is such a thing, doesn't need Bush. It sure didn't for its last two conventions. Scoring a 5% increase in Bush "approval" ratings means squat. And in exchange you own two wars, a huge national disaster, one global economic meltdown facilitated by your core beliefs, and enough hapless decision making and malevolent intentions for twelve Trump reality programs.
The desire to palliate is strong. Especially when the disease is incurable. Ladies and Gentlemen, George W. Bush.
Clare Boothe Luce liked to say that “a great man is one sentence.” Presidents, in particular. The most common “one sentence” for George W. Bush is: “He kept us safe.”
Oh, fuck. I mean I thought it was "Oh, fuck."
Not quite right.
Okay, just for the record, this did not get my hopes up. Even in the salons of D.C., let alone Fred Hiatt's Petting Zoo, "Not quite right" is not a polite synonym for "Absolute fucking bullshit."
With Bush’s legacy being reassessed as his presidential library opens in Dallas, it’s important to note that he did not just keep us safe. He created the entire anti-terror infrastructure that continues to keep us safe.
It's a funny thing: the people most likely to tell you that "History" will decide a thing--usually a thing whose current reputation they don't like, or are responsible for in some small way--are also the first ones to tell you some PR spasm or transient tic on the face of public discourse represents a thoughtful reconsideration.
By the way, the "anti-terror infrastructure" has been in place, in various forms, at least since the FBI started hunting spies and Fifth Columnists in the 30s, and the umbrella placed over the damn business during the Reign of Error--namely, the Department of Security, Preparedness Drills, and Surplus Military Hardware Reallocation--was something Bush opposed when it was first thunk up.
That homage was paid, wordlessly, by Barack Obama, who vilified Bush’s anti-terror policies as a candidate, then continued them as president: indefinite detention, rendition, warrantless wiretaps, special forces and drone warfare, and, most notoriously, Guantanamo, which Obama so ostentatiously denounced — until he found it indispensable.
Yeah, to his eternal shame, at least once History gets ahold of him. Fact is, though, that Candidate Obama's anti-Bush terror policies stance always seemed more than just a little facile, more than a little forced, and conspicuously vaporous. He's also the candidate who wanted hot pursuit into Pakistan.
Quite a list. Which is why there was not one successful terror bombing on U.S. soil from 9/11 until last week.
And that's entirely correct, except for the part with words.
And how you play with them. There was the University of Oklahoma football stadium bombing in 2005, which killed the bomb maker. We decided after the fact that that wasn't terrorism, because the FBI couldn't find any Muslims to tie Joel Henry Hinrichs III, to. There were two bombings in 2008 that didn't kill anyone: the Times Square military recruitment station bombing, and the Fed Ex bombing in San Diego. Does that make them "unsuccessful"? "Non-teroristical"? Maybe we need a War on the Slightly Disturbing. That fall there was a bombing at a Dalton, GA, law firm, which injured four and killed the bomber. That one doesn't count because the perp was a white guy pissed at the judicial system? You're the guys who want to toss around "terrorist" when it suits you. Give us the definition that excludes those.
Oh, did you think we were done? We ain't. Leave alone the question of why our "anti-terror infrastructure" gets credit for stopping theoretical terror attacks and a pass for not stopping real ones when they aren't Muslim enough. Why do only bombs count? Several terrorific "successful" gun attacks in that same period. For that matter, thanks to George W. Bush's Anti-Terror Infrastructure ™, foreign terrorists didn't have to come here to kill Americans. We sent plenty to them.
The Boston Marathon attack was an obvious security failure, but there is a difference between 3,000 dead and three.
Except when it comes to generating political hysteria.
Moreover, Bush’s achievement was not just infrastructure. It was war. The Afghan campaign overthrew the Taliban, decimated al-Qaeda and expelled it from its haven. Yet that success is today derogated with the cheap and lazy catchphrase — “He got us into two wars” — intended to spread to Afghanistan the opprobrium associated with Iraq.
Wait, isn't that George Bush's One Sentence?
Difficulty one: as odious as the Taliban was, and is, it didn't have anything to do with International Terror, Inc. It happened to be a handy, barely functional location for al-Qaeda training, seeing as how that's where all the soldiers and weapons we bought in the 80s for fighting the Soviets were. Second, we can argue exactly what it was transpired in Afghanistan after the Invasion of the Willing, but you people will have to stop celebrating your imaginary victory first. Those two things were done quickly, because they were relatively easy. Yet we're still there, because the hidden portion of that particular iceberg was never planned for. It didn't exist.
As if Afghanistan was some unilateral Bush adventure foisted on the American people. As if Obama himself did not call it a “war of necessity” and Joe Biden, the most just war since World War II.
Which, frankly, was not exactly a difficult standard to reach. Once again, and absolutely, Barack Obama was an opportunistic politician on the issue of George Bush's Two Wars™. He couldn't be tied to either, unlike his primary opponents. He got to sneer at the unpopular one and keep his hands clean on the Just one. He got waaaay too much credit for making a single sidewalk denunciation of Iraq War II. Absolutely. Democrats in the US Congress were enthusiastic about invading Afghanistan. So was the country. In this their judgement was hasty, disingenuous, and filled with a roaring in the ears. And ultimately wrong. And there was one man in the country who could have spoken for Reason, and called for Somewhat Coolish heads to prevail, at least for a minute. And that man was George W. Bush. Instead, he gave the Taliban until sundown to turn over its national sovereignty to US. Instead, he played the television version of that President he wasn't elected to be. Tell that to his Interactive Decision Maker 2000™.
So let's be fair. That's all we could have expected from him, and do not tell me that a sizable percentage of the American public didn't realize that part of the reason it was shitting itself continuously was that George W. Bush, Dinner Theatre Lenny Small, was President. Do we know that we could have negotiated our way to getting bin-Laden turned over? Like, maybe, instead of spending a couple trillion over the next six years, we just slipped Two Large into the right hands, without waving our balls in public? No. We never will. What we do know is that Bush's public stance--once he was willing to show himself in public--was something no government in the world--even one as sketchy as the Taliban--would have agreed to. Unless we already owned them.
Is there any question that the American public was howling for blood? Nope. Could it have been reconciled to a President waiting a week to use military force? If he'd stood up and made the case, particularly when he was the leader of the Shoot First party. You think the public didn't want Hirohito on a platter on December 8, 1941? Roosevelt steered most of our military resources to Europe. What George Bush did in the aftermath of 9/11was to play out every right wing wargasm fantasy. And of course it worked. Sort of. It's the goddam poorest nation on earth. It's also one with a sterling history of resistance to international invaders (yet another lesson we'd steadfastly refused to learn in Vietnam). We were almost guaranteed to be able to scatter the "government" of Afghanistan (which, in the event, we didn't really have the stomach to do ourselves, and so when bombing didn't work immediately we had the Northern Alliance handle the dirty work); we were almost certain to face protracted resistance after that. It was guaranteed that much of that resistance would pour over the "border" into Pakistan. Which is exactly what happened.
Could it have been different? I don't know. Could it have gone any more predictably? No. George Bush took the popular, and the most painless route, and he announced ahead of time that the Battle for Civilization Herself wasn't going to cost any of his party's backers any tax dollars. I did not support the war as announced--which made me one of a half-dozen of my fellow citizens--but I can certainly understand how many who did came to feel that Bush had screwed the pooch, however just or necessary the cause.
The dilemma in Afghanistan was what to do after the brilliant, nine-week victory.
Like "terrorist", "victory" is a word you really need to define before you start slinging it around. "Brilliant" you're just fucking with.
There was no good answer. Even with the benefit of seven years’ grinding experience under his predecessor, Obama got it wrong. His Afghan “surge” cost hundreds of American lives without having changed the country’s prospects.
The Afghan "surge" was, if anything, considerably more popular--or at least recognized as necessary--than the "wildly successful" one in Iraq.
It turned out to be a land too primitive to democratize, too fractured to unify.
Guess there was no way of knowing that ahead of time.
The final withdrawal will come after Obama’s own six years of futility.
And while I'm in favor of him withdrawing American troops oh, four years ago, had he done so that's what you'd be complaining about today. He did stay there long enough to get bin-Laden, though, which I'm sure you celebrate as sincerely as if your boy had done it in his seven years of über-futility.
Iraq was, of course, far more problematic. Critics conveniently forget that the invasion had broad support from the public and Congress, including from those who became the highest-ranking foreign-policy figures in the Obama administration — Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and Biden.
No, we don't. But warfloggers and Bushfellators seem to conveniently have never noticed how much pure bullshit that administration put out in the year before. Yeah, Congress, foolishly (or intentionally) backed into a corner, took the easy route of believing the administration. Having done that, one is allowed to blame the administration when it turned out to have lied about shit. Thass how the game is played.
And they forget the context — crumbling sanctions that would, in short order, have restored Saddam Hussein to full economic and regional power, well positioning him, post-sanctions, to again threaten his neighbors and restart his WMD program.
Nope. Context: paranoid fiction as told by people who believe Israel is our most important state. Got it checked off right here.
The Iraq War had three parts. The initial toppling of the regime was a remarkable success — like Afghanistan, rapid and with relatively few U.S. casualties.
Well, slightly different, in that Iraq had once had a tenth-rate military, now reduced to Afghanistan levels.
The occupation was a disaster, rooted in the fundamental contradiction between means and ends, between the “light footprint” chosen by Gen. George Casey and the grand reformation attempted by Paul Bremer, who tried to change everything down to the coinage.
Hey, it's nice to see the underlings get some credit.
(As we've said here many a time, the "light footprint" bit is bullshit; we didn't have the troops to do the job without waiting too long for the Bush plan to segue into the 2004 elections. Ask Eric Shinseki. And Bremer was Bush's man. In fact, he was his fucking doppelgänger.)
Finally, the surge, a courageous Bush decision taken against near-universal opposition, that produced the greatest U.S. military turnaround since the Inchon landing. And inflicted the single most significant defeat for al-Qaeda (save Afghanistan) — a humiliating rout at the hands of Iraqi Sunnis fighting side-by-side with the American infidel.
That would make a great graphic novel. Or pile of ordnance for a buffalo chip-hurling contest.
We'll just see what the Surge really accomplished when Iraq is on its own. Getting the Press to stop covering the daily violence for the Duration is my bet.
As with Lincoln,
Just shut up.
Obama had one task: Conclude a status-of-forces agreement and thus secure Iraq as a major regional ally. He failed utterly. Iraq today is more fragile, sectarian and Iranian-influenced than it was when Bush left office — and than it had to be.
Bullshit. Iraq, strategic American ally? US troops there for a hundred years, like Korea? We didn't have enough troops to conduct the war in the first place, you twit.
Like Bush, Harry Truman left office widely scorned, largely because of the inconclusive war he left behind.
And, like Bush, being dumb as a bag of hair.
In time, however, Korea came to be seen as but one battle in a much larger Cold War
When did this happen?
that Truman was instrumental in winning.
When did this happen?
He established the institutional and policy infrastructure (CIA, NATO, the Truman Doctrine, etc.)
Thought Bush did that?
that made possible ultimate victory almost a half-century later.
Wait, the CIA "won" the Cold War? NATO "won" the Cold War? The Truman Doctrine did something else besides cost us trillions of post-war dollars on paranoid, nuclear-fueled fantasies? Oh, and opening new markets for Coca-Cola?
The Soviet Empire collapsed under the weight of economic and military hubris, dogmatic policy covering for petty thievery and mass murder, a profound, culture-based addiction to paranoia, and--maybe most importantly, in the modern age--an aversion to open scientific inquiry.
The Truman Doctrine, on the other hand, died a long time before that, if it wasn't stillborn in the first place. It didn't survive the "Who Lost China" debate, or the derisive laughter over Quemoy and Matsu. Unfortunately, a lot of people didn't get the joke for fifty years. In fact, some still don't get it. Meanwhile, Chuck, if you'll have a look, we're still in fucking Korea.
I suspect history will similarly see Bush as the man who, by trial and error but also with prescience and principle, established the structures that will take us through another long twilight struggle and enable us to prevail.
Oh, maybe we might wait and see what History--not some David McCullough hagiography much beloved of people who want to pretend that Truman is "supposed to be" the standard bearer for the party they don't belong to--really thinks about ol' Give 'Em Hell.
The world doesn't follow your dreams, Chuckles, nor is it judged by how closely it resembles them. This is the best evidence for a belief in God I have yet found.