July 22, 2008

Fareed Zakaria: Bush not a "wartime president"

And how come? Well golly -- Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush didn't refer to themselves as such, even though they involved the US in foreign conflicts:

George W. Bush is fond of describing himself as a "war president." And he has made many decisions involving soldiers and battle. But does this make the description an appropriate one? For many people the answer is obvious. We're engaged in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, after all. But Bill Clinton initiated hostilities in the Balkans twice, George H.W. Bush invaded Panama and Iraq, and neither president ever described himself as a "war president."

For a superpower, being involved in a military conflict somewhere is more the norm than the exception. Since 1945, only one president has not presided over combat that engaged American troops—Jimmy Carter. (Between the Bay of Pigs operation and the American "advisers" in South Vietnam, John F. Kennedy doesn't make the cut.) America remains the world's dominant military-political power, so local crises often engage American allies or interests.

America (and before it, Britain) has felt it was "at war" when the conflict threatened the country's basic security—not merely its interests or its allies abroad. This is the common-sense way in which we define a wartime leader, and by that definition the politicians in charge during World Wars I and II—Wilson, Lloyd George, Roosevelt, Churchill—are often described as such. (Link.)

Earth to Zakaria: WTF do you call 9/11 if not a threat to the "country's basic security?" Fareed goes on to note how different the war (or non-war) on terror (don't want to capitalize the term for fear of offending Fareed) is from past conflicts. Well, no duh. Then, he notes that radical Islam isn't nearly the threat it's usually made out to be. To me, this is a serious error in judgment. Zakaria lauds Dwight Eisenhower for investing internally rather than assuaging many hawks during the height of the Cold War -- that he recognized that the USSR wasn't really the threat it was made out to be. That may or may not be true; however, the Soviet Union wasn't run by a bunch of raving lunatics, and its leaders also recognized that their country would be irrevocably annihilated if they attempted to destroy us.

This is not the case with the Osama bin Ladens of the world. If they get a hold of a nuke and use it -- of even a so-called "dirty bomb" -- they could care less what the United States' (predictable) reaction would be. They're insane. They want to die for "the cause."

As for Zakaria's first beef -- about Bush calling himself a "wartime president" -- who cares? Bush's dad, Bill Clinton and others certainly could've done the same and they'd have been right.

Posted by Hube at July 22, 2008 12:36 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.)