Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Bush legacy

A colleague called attention to this ante-post-mortem of the Bush presidency, which does a pretty good--one might even say "fair and balanced"--job surveying the terrain. But my colleague added this in a letter to the editor of the National Post:

Dear Mr. Libin,



I found your article, "Bush Legacy Remains to be Written," in today’s National Post to be very thought-provoking as it provides a number of helpful guideposts against which history is likely to measure the legacy of President Bush.



I’d like to offer an additional thought on this matter. I have come to the conclusion that many years from now, when history looks back at the Bush presidency, issues that now seem monumental, such as the war in Iraq and the economy will not play nearly as large a role in history’s judgment as we now think. Rather, if Iran obtains nuclear weapons, a prospect which is becoming increasingly likely, I believe that in the final analysis President Bush will be judged primarily on his failure to prevent this. The world has yet to fully comprehend the nightmare which will unfold the day that Iran first detonates a nuclear weapon. Bush himself has likened the current time to 1938 and has squarely placed himself in the dock of history by noting that if we don’t act to prevent this development, then history will judge us in the same way that we currently judge Chamberlain and Europe for their failure to act when action was still possible. It appears that Bush is prepared to leave office with the almost certain knowledge that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons. It is for this reason, and not Iraq, the economy, Katrina, or the whole host of other current hot-button issues, that President Bush will likely go down in history as not just a failed President, but as one who, with full knowledge of the consequences of his inaction, allowed the unthinkable to happen.

He’s got a point.

Discussions - 21 Comments

As to the additional point I Totally DISagree.
Yes time will look back on the admiistration of Pres. Bush, but it won't blame Bush for an Iranian Bomb. Remember Carter let the Shah fall and all the Shah was really guilty of was trying to modernize rural Iran too quickly for the population. Then it was Clinton who nuclearize Asia:
allowing the Chinese to prefect their bomb and delivery system (thank you Al Gore's Loral Space); North Korea was allowed to lie on treaties where we actually supplied them the fuel to make weapons grade uranium, the Chinese gave their stolen nuclear technology to Pakistan, they developed
a bomb, and then attempted to spread the capability to Libya where the Bush Administration was able disband their program before it was complete; when Pakistan got their bomb it so frieghtened the Indians that they develop a bomb of their own; and finally North Korea has been caught and stopped (as Iraq was stopped) trying to spread nuclear capabilities in Syria. Until you remember the facts of how these Democratic Presidents' poor decisions regarding nuclear proliferation created the current situation you might try to lay an Iranian Bomb at Bush's feet but it won't get much traction. When Bush is gone the Democrats will have to take responsiblity for the result of their actions,that't the way the world works. Clinton's policies were directly responsible for the security failures that lead to 9/11 but it happened on Bush's watch so he dealt with it. Only the Republican tried to point blame, but no one really cared and the nation moved on. That's the way it aways is; I can't imagine how the Democrates can hope to govern for the next 8 years if their strategy is to blame their responses to the world's problems on a past administration.
Seems your point is very superficial in its scope, thinking, knowledge of human behavior.

Plus you seem to know little of the diplomacy of the last 8 years. One can't consider the politics of the Iranian bomb without acknowledgng the duplicity of the Russians who want their return to superpower status; the weakness of our European allies who depend heavily on Iranian oil;the irrational egocentrisim of the repressive Iranian government;
and refusal of the Democratic Party, the mainstream media, and the military brass to support policies of strenght on the world stage by this President.

The man has his faults, to be sure, including a lack of ability to articulate his vision that has been very detrimental, but at a certain point we have to cut him some slack--for after a certain point--2005, 2006, say, any action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons would have required a commitment of will and resources that the nation was no longer willing to give.

In other words, history will have to acknowledge, if it chooses to condemn him, that towards the end he could have jumped out of the trenches and yelled "Follow me!" all he wanted to--the nation was not going to bestir itself. Part of that is due to the man, part to the press, part to the nation, and a large part to the nature of the opposition. May a President Obama have a more loyal one.

The real villain this 2d term has been Condi.

Bush gave her free rein; and she has been calling the shots, {along with her sidekick in ineptitude, Nicholas Burns}.

Annapolis? That was her.

Buying into the Arab narrative about the centrality of the Israeli/Palestinian "peace process," that was her, {and here her views sadly coincide with that of her mentor, Scowcroft}.

Giving up on preventing the mullahs going nuke, that was her all over.

The only place where Bush stood against her was on the surge, which she was against, dismissing it as an exercise in futility.

You know, you could easily write a book whose thesis is that Bush's 2d term was a repudiation of the central features of his first.

Excellent point Dan, although S. Wallace perhaps has an even stronger one. Didn't know Rice joined all the geniuses at the Pentagon who opposed the surge. The only silver lining is that Obama did promise in the presidential debates to not accept an Iranian bomb.

This excerpt from Norman Podhoretz' article in the June, 2007 issue of Commentary is particulary relevant to this discussion:

In his 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush made a promise:

We’ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.
In that speech, the President was referring to Iraq, but he has made it clear on a number of subsequent occasions that the same principle applies to Iran. Indeed, he has gone so far as to say that if we permit Iran to build a nuclear arsenal, people 50 years from now will look back and wonder how we of this generation could have allowed such a thing to happen, and they will rightly judge us as harshly as we today judge the British and the French for what they did and what they failed to do at Munich in 1938. I find it hard to understand why George W. Bush would have put himself so squarely in the dock of history on this issue if he were resigned to leaving office with Iran in possession of nuclear weapons, or with the ability to build them. Accordingly, my guess is that he intends, within the next 21 months, to order air strikes against the Iranian nuclear facilities from the three U.S. aircraft carriers already sitting nearby.

But if that is what he has in mind, why is he spending all this time doing the diplomatic dance and wasting so much energy on getting the Russians and the Chinese to sign on to sanctions? The reason, I suspect, is that—to borrow a phrase from Robert Kagan—he has been “giving futility its chance.” Not that this is necessarily a cynical ploy. For it may well be that he has entertained the remote possibility of a diplomatic solution under which Iran would follow the example of Libya in voluntarily giving up its nuclear program. Besides, once having played out the diplomatic string, and thereby having demonstrated that to him force is truly a last resort, Bush would be in a stronger political position to endorse John McCain’s formula that the only thing worse than bombing Iran would be allowing Iran to build a nuclear bomb—and not just to endorse that assessment, but to act on it.

_____________


If this is what Bush intends to do, it goes, or should go, without saying that his overriding purpose is to ensure the security of this country in accordance with the vow he took upon becoming President, and in line with his pledge not to stand by while one of the world’s most dangerous regimes threatens us with one of the world’s most dangerous weapons.

But there is, it has been reported, another consideration that is driving Bush. According to a recent news story in the New York Times, for example, Bush has taken to heart what “[o]fficials from 21 governments in and around the Middle East warned at a meeting of Arab leaders in March”—namely, “that Iran’s drive for atomic technology could result in the beginning of ‘a grave and destructive nuclear arms race in the region.’” Which is to say that he fears that local resistance to Iran’s bid for hegemony in the greater Middle East through the acquisition of nuclear weapons could have even more dangerous consequences than a passive capitulation to that bid by the Arab countries. For resistance would spell the doom of all efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and it would vastly increase the chances of their use.

I have no doubt that this ominous prospect figures prominently in the President’s calculations. But it seems evident to me that the survival of Israel, a country to which George W. Bush has been friendlier than any President before him, is also of major concern to him—a concern fully coincident with his worries over a Middle Eastern arms race.

Much of the world has greeted Ahmadinejad’s promise to wipe Israel off the map with something close to insouciance. In fact, it could almost be said of the Europeans that they have been more upset by Ahmadinejad’s denial that a Holocaust took place 60 years ago than by his determination to set off one of his own as soon as he acquires the means to do so. In a number of European countries, Holocaust denial is a crime, and the European Union only recently endorsed that position. Yet for all their retrospective remorse over the wholesale slaughter of Jews back then, the Europeans seem no readier to lift a finger to prevent a second Holocaust than they were the first time around.

Not so George W. Bush, a man who knows evil when he sees it and who has demonstrated an unfailingly courageous willingness to endure vilification and contumely in setting his face against it. It now remains to be seen whether this President, battered more mercilessly and with less justification than any other in living memory, and weakened politically by the enemies of his policy in the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular, will find it possible to take the only action that can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions both toward us and toward Israel. As an American and as a Jew, I pray with all my heart that he will.

The premise is wrong. You can not halt physics or human knowledge. This is sort of like compaining that Constantinople fell because the Turks purchased a better catapalt (true story). EVERY country will, sooner or later, have nuclear weapons just like they will have treated water, roads, airports, etc.

A politcal, security, or military strategy that is based on "non-proliferation" is doomed from the start. It is an error to focus on it...

Allow me to pen a word or two:

He did the best he could with a country of girly-men. Not much else could be asked of Bush, who attempted to save Americans their individual independence and America its greatness, was a victim of the times. While his ineffective communication added to the problem, Americans were bent on a path of giving away their greatness in exchange for increased government entitlements. It is unlikely that any President could have thwarted this growing trend of American weakness. The "conservative intellectuals" capitulated to liberal ideology in the 1970s and 80s. They sowed the seeds for big government "conservatism" that culminated in the dependent America of today. Once "conservative intellectuals" began entertaining thought of the "general good" and "communal self-help," all of America became saturated with socialism and socialism-lite. A few men, one of them President George W. Bush, tried and unsurprisingly failed to stop this love affair with "social justice."

A few men, one of them President George W. Bush, tried and unsurprisingly failed to stop this love affair with "social justice."

Wrong. He PROMOTED "compassionate conservativism". He PROMOTED (indeed his administration is primarily responsible for) the Prescription Drug Giveaway. He is an prime example of "socialism-lite", not someone swept reluctantly along. This was obvious to anyone paying attention by 04 (I did not vote for him then)...

Bush seriously needs to exit gracefully, and be careful not to leave anything undone or do anything else drastic that will give the left-wing illuminati more to blame on the GOP.

Query: should Bush attack Iranian nuke facilities now? Justification: a) 2005-2007 too early, had to give Euro diplomacy a chance, b) pre-11/4 2008 a period too embroiled in the presidential election, wouldn't want to cloud decision with suspicions of desire to influence election, c) Team Obama, despite promises made, will allow Iran to have Nukes, d) Iran with Nukes is unthinkable.

Or should he leave it to Obama? Justification: a) Prez's implicit authority now is limited...b) might outrage American public confused about lines of authority in lame-duck period and convinced that its public will (expressed for Obama-esque policies) had been flatly violated.

History will look back on his presidency and note the massive fact that there is now democracy in Iraq. This is huge. More later. Test on logistical combat planning factors.

If we excuse GWB because of things his predecessors did, then we're handing that excuse to Barack Obama any time he wants to use it.

If circumstances tie his hands, if public opinion wouldn't stand for it, so to speak, and we regard this as an excuse for not "doing the right thing," then we would have a hard time criticizing our incoming President for similar failures to act. If you can't criticize President Bush now, you can't criticize Barack Obama for the Iranian nuclear test that occurs on his watch.

To Joe Knippenberg's point, diplomacy would have been a viable option availible to Clinton in deterring both India and Pakistan from obtaining nuclear weapons in a way that it is not with Iran. We were on relatively friendly terms with India (now close allies thanks to Bush) and our money was keeping the Islamists at bay in Pakistan. It's different with Iran; they're not interested in diplomacy. The leadership wants a bomb. The problem is that we don't want a war with Iran (although the current situation in Iraq has made fighting and winning one an option), and so we have to try to walk the tight-rope using peaceful means to deter them up until the point of no return. We will probably reach this point under Obama's watch. I do believe there are ways of stopping a bomb other than war ("Tehran's a dangerous city, guys get mugged coming home from work all the time - sometimes it goes bad"), and if they fail it will be on Obama to decide what we do.

As to the Bush legacy: good. Against massive criticism from the Left/media and later from the Right, he perservered and achieved what everyone said couldn't be done. Everyone forgot, and most never saw, the big picture: the endstate of the invasion of Iraq was to begin "draining the swamp". And we have. In the eyes of history, the importance of this accomplishment, which is big in and of itself, will only be compounded by the criticism and almost complete lack of support at the end. Can't wait.

If you're a partisan you can criticize as you see fit.

I might add: I don't see the present economic troubles being attached to him down the road (though God knows the Left will write book after book on the subject). The prevailing wisdom now is that this has something to do with greedy lenders granting loans to people who were living outside their means. This, when studied, will hold up under close scrutiny.

We are already fighting two wars and our military is stretched even if none of America's other security commitments (in Europe or East Asia) flare up. An attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would open up the possibility of open conventional war with Iran and possibly the destabilization of Iraq to boot. Does the US military have the conventional force available to deal with such a contingency along with the campaign in Afghanistan?

This does not mean that the US should not strike at Iran's nuclear facilities, only that we may, in the short and medium term be unable to deal with the consequences of a determined Iranian reaction. It is possible that Iran will not respond to such a strike with open war. The response of Iraq after the Israeli bombing is precedent. The problem is that Iran knows our weakness full well and it is tough to bluff when the other guy knows you are holding rags.

Maybe it is better to bomb Iran and risk fighting a conventional war rather than letting Iran have nukes with God knows what results. But lets not kid ourselves. One potential outcome of bombing Iran is war and miltary defeat, with thousands of American troops dead and the gains of the surge thrown away as Iraq sinks into chaos as the American people respond to yet another war thrust upon them with disbelief and horror.

I don't blame Bush so much for cowardice as for the strategic incompetence that got us into this mess. It was the Bush/Rumsfeld refusal to significantly increase the size of the convetional military that has left us with such a defecit in conventional military power. We had trouble maintaining 180,000 troops in Iraq, nevermind what it would take to fight Iran while holding on to stability in Iraq. It was the failed Bush/Rumsfeld Iraq strategy of 2003-2006 that squandered any credibility the Bush administration might have with the public on matters of fighting wars. There are positives to Bush's record. The courage and resolution in ordering and sticking by the surge is just one example. He is no coward. But he has put the US in a vulnerable position based on his strategic errors, and that will have consquences, and they will be part of his legacy.

Why does mutally assured destruction work with the Red Russian, but not Iran. Is the guy in power there going to do something that will lead to him being king of a 1000 year parking lot? I think we are really reaching here to find new people to fear. Terorism is barely logical, the retaliations are almost always worse on the people than the act itself. The thing about terrorism is that it once again made war a private possiblity. Meaning that war could be limited again. If you all honestly believe that Iran is going to Nuke us then lets start our own Network of Mercenaries and roll into the middle east and turn it into a parking lot. Lets fight a total war, we venerate WWII but the actual military strategy was to bomb factory workers. If the threat is real then the reaction should not be limited, lets either move past this or do it right. I'm sick of seeing a bunch of kids yanked around and shot up for purely political reasons. How many American lives are worth how many Iranian lives? If it is 1to1, then why bother worrying about them killing us becuase its the same death toll as us killing them? If not then use the brilliant doctrine of pre-emption and nuke them before they nuke us.

Polling has consistently indicated that the American people favour military action against Tehran's Manhattan Project, if all diplomatic efforts should prove unavailing.

Now the media can't handle the idea of going after the mullahs. But that doesn't mean the American people have gone weak in the knees about it. Be mindful too that in the recent campaign, it wasn't McCain who moved towards concessions to Tehran. Rather, it was Obama who had to embrace McCain's robust position that Tehran cannot be tolerated to go nuke, and if military action is required, then military action shall be ordered.

Now it's surely a truism that Bush has taken a significant pounding from the media, -------------- but that is NOT a valid reason for refusing to perform the obligations of his high office.

Recall as well that GW campaigned in 2004 on the position that Tehran would not be permitted to go nuke. However, under the foreign policy reign of Condi, and pursuant to her lead, he has jettisoned that sane position. And has ignored the clear mandate he received from the American electorate, to use whatever means necessary to stop Tehran going nuke.

So that being the case, let's not indulge the temptation to exonerate Bush for his pusillanimousness, a pusillanimousness that may result in horrors beyond all telling.

Pete, your analysis of Iran is good, but other than that you don't know what you're talking about. You're spouting off cliches you've been hearing the past few years that aren't accurate anymore. We're stronger now than ever. The military is full of experienced people who believe in the current fight (those who stuck around or signed up to join in). The enemy now fear us as much as hate us. Contrary to what you said, the size of the Marine Corps and Army has grown (although arguing that the size of the initial invasion force was too small is certainly legitimate).

We're not fighting two wars: Iraq has become an Army/State Department policing action. You may all thank President Bush (not that you will. . .)

Andrew, nice. No doubt that the people in the military are now experienced and motivated. There are also too few of them. How many troops would it take to handle a conventional military war with Iran AND keep stability in Iraq (where there might be a strong anti US reaction to bringing a war with Iran on their door step), AND enlarge our commitment to Afghanistan AND manitain our other commitments? That is the kind of commitment you are looking at if you want to prudently deal with the possible consequences of bombing Iran. Maybe it would work out. Maybe Iran would respond to the bombing of their nuclear facilities by mostly moaning and having their terrorist proxies launch a few attacks on the US. But counting on such a best case scenario while not having enough military force available to either deter or clearly win the kind of fight that Iran might put up is the kind of recklessness that turned pre surge Iraq into such a mess.

Actually, Iran has been at the heart of many of our problems in Iraq, and if they were uh...busy...Iraq would quite down quite a bit. On the other hand, I think the reason that Bush didn't and won't attack Iran is because the country just won't accept additional military conflict. Shine on, perishing republic!

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