May 22, 2008

Will history redeem President Bush?

Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch writes precisely that -- that we will look back one day and, at least in many ways, say "George W. Bush got it right."

As I believe many readers and listeners of my commentaries know, I crossed party lines in 2004 to support the President's reelection, saying at the time that I did not agree with him on a single domestic issue, but I did believe he was the only one running who appreciated the threat of Islamic terrorism to American values and Western civilization and was prepared to wage a war to defend those values.

I have no regrets for having made that decision and helping the President to win a second term. Today, according to the most recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, "71 percent of the American public disapprove of how Bush is handling his job as President, an all-time high in polling." His position can be compared with that of Harry Truman who left Washington unpopular and alone in 1953. Today, with the passage of time, most historians and certainly the American people, see Truman in a different light, primarily for his willingness to stand firm against Soviet aggression, whether against Greece or South Korea, and proclaim the Truman Doctrine, effectively defending the free world from Soviet efforts to expand their hegemony. Like Truman, George W. Bush, in my view, will be seen as one of the few world leaders who recognized the danger of Islamic terrorism and was willing with Tony Blair to stand up to it and not capitulate.

Koch goes on to explain [what should be] the well-known dangers of Islamic fundamentalism, but conspicuously missing from his argument is a vital ingredient: Iraq. And this, ultimately, makes his argument a lot less convincing. It's one thing to fight against an ideology which is responsible for the most devastating foreign attack ever on US soil, including taking the fight to their home base of Afghanistan. It's entirely another to invade a predominately Muslim country initially on one pretext (WMDs), but later changed (fighting terrorists) when the initial one didn't work out. No one in their right mind actually cares what nutball Osama bin Laden thinks about the United States, including its supposed "occupation" of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia (um, didn't the Saudis sort of invite us there? Sure, and that's why bin Laden hates the rulers of homeland, too). But no one invited us to Iraq.

I've opined numerous times that I understand President Bush's reasons for going into Iraq; I just disagree with them. Certainly, virtually everyone believed there were WMDs in the country, and the pathetic UN wasn't willing (as usual) to back up its own resolutions and threats. But that same "virtually everyone" (and by this I mean other countries; most of the American public was favorable to invasion in 2002-03) also didn't think it wise for the Western superpower to occupy a Muslim country in the middle of a struggle against radical Muslim terrorists. In other words, give Osama bin Laden's own words (at least on this point) virtual exact legitimacy. As DE Libertarian's Steve Newton notes,

The best proof of this (US imperialism in its many forms) is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper states through their disunity and weakness to guarantee Israel's survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula.

Newton asks,

... how large an error do we make when we fail to see (or even fail to try to see) Osama bin Laden accurately through the eyes of the Arab world, the Muslim world, and the developing world?

I am not so much concerned about these perceptions as I am about falling right into bin Laden's hands regarding one obvious perception, one that could have been totally avoided and was unnecessary (again, Iraq). That's the largest error.

But back to Ed Koch. He makes the comparison of George Bush to Harry Truman and how dismal his poll numbers were near the end of his tenure as president. The Korean conflict was unpopular; however, we now look back and largely agree that Truman's actions were correct. But Korea isn't like Iraq (which, again recall that Koch fails to mention) in many respects, not the least of which is that Iraq did not suddenly up and invade one of its democratic neighbors like North Korea did. Iraq was sufficiently "contained" by US/UN forces. And while the UN agreed with Truman about organizing a multinational force to combat the communists in Korea (well, it was fortunate that the Soviets weren't present for the Security Council vote), it did not authorize an invasion by the United States in Iraq.

If George Bush had stuck with the "General War on Terror" and avoided the entanglement in Iraq, Koch may well prove to be prophetic. Then again, I believe the poll numbers for Bush would not be as downright dismal as they are, thus Koch's entire thesis would be moot.

Posted by Hube at May 22, 2008 06:22 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

See, I told you we agreed on something...

(By the way, based on a definition mentioned in couple of oblique posts on (FSP), you are now officially a "good Republican.")

I'm humbled by the fact that were the shoe on another foot, I wonder if I would have had the courage to do what you just did....

Well written, well said, well done.

Posted by: kavips at May 22, 2008 10:53 PM

Thanks very much, kavips. :-)

Posted by: Hube at May 23, 2008 06:39 AM

im sory but iraq will be the main reason that history will be kind to Bush.the war in iraq will become known as the war that broke the back of support for the islamac jhad movement of the likes of ben laden in the arab street.

Posted by: mbechel at May 28, 2008 11:03 PM