Thursday, July 10, 2008

No-Win Situation

Visionary? Retard? Liar?
The credits are queued up to roll on the George W. Bush presidency. Was he the worst president ever? One of the best? Negligible in the annals of history? Were his failures due to his own agency or will the Bush II presidency be the one to pull up the shroud on the great secret of administration: The individual is at the mercy of the events.

Let's set aside the conspiracy theories and partisan bickering over the key points of the Bush presidency and look only at one of the defining events of the past 8 years: The invasion of Iraq.

Here are my assumptions:
Going to war was incorrect.
Not going to war would have been incorrect.

Saddam Hussein had been stuck in a difficult position since the end of the first Gulf War. He had an enemy on his border in Iran... an enemy he had used reckless and illegal weaponry against in the Iran/Iraq war. It was the threat of brutal warfare that kept Iran from invading and serving up the slaughter that their people endured less than a decade earlier.
Iraq's economy and military were crippled under the U.N. sanctions and the threat of armed enforcement of those sanctions was ever-present. The would be enforcer was the U.S.
Many of us would agree that in the pre-9/11 world, the U.S. had the moral high ground in international affairs and Iran was... well... putting up a bounty for the head of an author.
So, as any reasonable man would do, Saddam walked the fine line between war with Iran and war with the U.S. He knew that the U.S. would not launch a full-fledged attack on Iraq without clear evidence of his production of illegal weaponry. Even beyond that, that weaponry would have to pose a threat for the Great Satan of the west to move aggressively. The easiest way to ensure that the U.N. (and, therefore, the U.S.) would not find any illegal weapons would be to not have them.
However, without mustard gas, sarin gas, and biological weapons as a threat, there would be nothing to dissuade Iran from invading. Therein lies the game of shadow puppetry.
Saddam had to have the official position that he did not have banned weapons (which he didn't, for the most part). If the official line was "we don't have them" and the U.N. cannot find them... the U.S. will not sacrifice their pedestal and lose their international support.
For Iran, though, Saddam had to make every action appear that he did, in fact, have everything that he said he did not have. Words for the U.N., actions for Iran. Let the inspectors in... but tell them to wait a week while they fixed the roof of the warehouse... we don't want anything falling on you... then, send a caravan of trucks from the warehouse to somewhere in the desert... sure, the U.S. is watching, but hopefully Iran is, too. Tell the U.N. you are clean, then look over your shoulder and wink at the Ayatollah.
Saddam played the part as gracefully as a ballerina... that is, until 9-11 changed things a bit. We went into Afghanistan, which is perfectly logical... but we also put Iraq in the cross hairs.
But Iraq didn't have anything to do with 9-11 you say...
Yes. But this is where things really changed. 9-11 was devastating. We realized that we could not afford to absorb these kind of attacks and then retaliate against the perpetrators. We felt the need to identify the present threats and eliminate them. Afghanistan was obvious. Iraq... well... we had to look at Iraq the way Iran did.
We could no longer afford to accept the official position of Saddam Hussein when his every action suggested he was lying. After all, it was action that killed 3000 people that day... not words.
The issue is not whether George W. wanted to go to war with Iraq. I do believe he had to. As an agent of the citizenry, and by the energies at play in the country... GW was faced with this question: "We should take out Saddam, right?"
Notice that the answer is assumed in the question. We (admit it, a very large percentage of the country) wanted... on a very visceral level... wanted to depose him. We only needed justification. Did the administration cherry-pick the intelligence? Yeah... but the tree had low branches. They answered our question and rationalized our action.
George Bush did not lie about WMD. If you believe the answer to be yes... and you have a lot of evidence that the answer is yes... and the answer ends up being no, you didn't lie... you got it wrong.
Was going to war incorrect? Yes.
Was not going to war incorrect? Yes.
Imagine if the president stood against war. Against popular clamoring... Against the military intelligence... against world opinion that WMD were there and posed a threat... in the shadow of the smoke pouring out of ground zero... if the president refused to flex our military muscle... he would have been impeached and tried for treason by the very people who want him impeached and tried for treason for going to war.
Going to war was incorrect.
Not going to war would have been incorrect.
History will view G.W. as a man at the mercy of the waves of the ocean of world events.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sarcasm fooled me - I didn't expect the deep thought

July 10, 2008 at 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correct or incorrect, we we came, we saw, we cocked it up. Hindsight don't mean diddly.

July 10, 2008 at 10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a moment, forget about the economy, gas prices and mortgage mess and tell me one thing outside of the war in Iraq that Bush will be remembered for.

Eight wasted years.

Just to make this a non-politcal thread, our Democratic-led Congress is well on the way to matching Bush's do-nothing, did-nothing era.

July 11, 2008 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I am not entirely sure I understand what you are getting at... are you saying that, aside from the "screw-ups", we haven't done anything of historical note in the past 8 years?


July 11, 2008 at 6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I am saying is this: When history looks back at the Bush presidency, what will be the defining moments, the great accomplishments, the vision?

Nixon was a crook and a hated politician, but his foreign policy with China was a great success in opening a new world.

LBJ extended the Vietnam War but championed civil rights.

I know it takes some time to get a historical perspective on a presidency, but we can always guess.

What is Bush's legacy?

You might need some time on this one.

July 12, 2008 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger Roger said...

LBJ's legacy is The Great Society. Oh yes, enter the age of entitlements, a burden that has now burdened a couple of generations, and probably will burden more.

"... When history looks back at the Bush presidency, what will be the defining moments, ..."

The events of 9/11 was clearly a defining moment. I'm not about defending the man, but what impact has the President had on crude oil prices? Be specific ("he is an oil man..." does not count) about the US policy that has influence the global trading of crude oil. Also, what specifically has the President had to do with the mortgage crisis. I would like to see statistics to understand what foreclosures and bankruptcies are due to the overspending habits on the part of the people. I've heard far too many reasons revolving around ARMs. Those folks who signed on the line for the ARM knew full well that their payments would undoubtedly balloon. If they chose to use the extra money (the amount between their mortgage payment and the balloon amount) as spending cash, and not saving it, then nobody is to blame excepting themselves. The huge credit card debt is no fault of anybody, except the cardholder. With the rising fuel costs, have many drivers changed their habits? No. I heard a statistic the other day. The driving miles in 2008 is a measly 1% less than 2007. Has the public at large taken sacrifice seriously? No.

My point is that far too many fingers have been pointed to the President and Congress regarding some of the national problems. In many cases, the finger should be pointed directly back to the consumer and average citizen. Congress, nor the President, cannot fix stupid decisions on the part of the public.

July 12, 2008 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...


You told me to take some time in answering your question... that is precisely the reason I cannot answer it yet. A lot of years will need to pass before that question can be answered. Your two examples highlight that point. You point out the big short-coming first, and then the lasting positive. With LBJ, we are almost 40 years beyond the end of his presidency and just now do we have our first legitimate black presidential candidate. With Nixon, we are 34 years removed from his presidency and only within the last decade and a half has our relationship with China been anything worth mentioning. Granted, we are very lucky to have a friendly political and trade relationship with them today. What I am saying is that it may be 30 years before something that GW has done becomes enormously relevant to this country. Let's say we manage to stabilize Iraq, install a legitimate and friendly government, and everything is wildflowers and puppy dogs... and in 30 years we are pulled into some heinous war where Iraq is strategically important... we could say wow, we sure are lucky GW built up all that military infrastructure in that country... it was unpopular then but we would be dead today if it hadn't happened... but who knows?
On a side note... we did prove that there was once liquid water on mars during the Bush presidency. That is a big deal and is a first step toward the discovery of extraterrestrial life. Ironic... isn't it? I believe GW was primarily elected by people who believe the earth is a) 6000 years old and b) flat...
And yet, the scientific foundation for exobiology is being laid during his presidency. Brilliant :-)


July 13, 2008 at 6:44 AM  

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