Monday, March 12, 2007

The Bush Legacy

Also at DKos.

The Bush administration's chief propagandist is still spinning webs. In an interview with Michael Abramowitz of the Washington Post, Karl Rove said that there is little talk in the White House these days about young Mr. Bush's legacy, but there's one thing he's certain of. Bush's greatest impact on future presidents will be his doctrine of "preemptive war."

The doctrine, according to Rove, "says if you train a terrorist, harbor a terrorist, feed a terrorist, you will be treated like a terrorist yourself. And then the corollary of that, which is that we will not wait until dangers fully materialize before taking action."

Abramowitz notes that Dick Cheney recently told ABC News "I think history will regard us as having made good, sound, solid decisions."

I think history will regard Cheney and Rove as having heads full of snakes.

Restoring Sanity

Abramowitz also points out that others have a more pragmatic view of the Bush II legacy.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser in the Carter administration, said the next president will be forced to discard the most "extreme policies" of the Bush administration if he or she hopes to regain American influence in the world, and to abandon Bush's vision of Islamic extremists as on par with the Nazi empire or the Soviet Union at their zeniths.

The next president, he said, "will have to make serious readjustments with rationality."

The rational assessment of the Bush administration will be that it didn't make any sound decisions, and that preemptive war, especially when conducted by a sole superpower against a much weaker opponent, is sublime folly.

Any war is a risky undertaking, and unnecessary risks are not the kinds of things rational political leaders should undertake. On a necessity scale of zero to 10, repelling an invasion by a neighboring country ranks a 10. Invading a country halfway across the world based on pan-fried intelligence and Imperialistic ideologies rates several places to the right of the decimal point.

Intelligence, especially strategic intelligence, is an iffy thing at best. The ability to accurately determine a potential adversary's capabilities through advanced surveillance technology and intentions is limited. Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana (1958) and John le Carre's The Tailor of Panama are two excellent spy novels--written by former spies--that demonstrate the frailties of human intelligence. When you subject intelligence to manipulation by political ideologists with a war-centric agenda, as happened with Iraq--and that threatens to happen again with Iran--you have a recipe for perpetual fiasco.

What's more, as our Iraq excursion illustrates, preemptive wars overseas that involve invasion and occupation based on fuzzy intelligence grind one's land forces into sandbag fill, and it's intuitively obvious to anyone who isn't a Cheney-class compensated psychopath that pursuing a policy that destroys your means of pursuing it is, in layman terms, just plain crazy.

Hatters, Hares and Lemmings

Rebuilding America's Defenses, the Project for the New American Century's neoconservative manifesto published in September of 2000, stated that…
…the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein. (Page 14.)

The 9/11 attacks gave the Bush administration neocons (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Feith, etc.) the "new Pearl Harbor" they needed to carry out their delusional Strangelove strategy.

Rather than rebuilding America's defenses, the neocons have put our military bow and barrel down in a sand dune. And yet, incredibly, the likes of Rove and Cheney insist that they have created a template for the success of future U.S. policies.
By any rational measure, these guys are nuttier that a pecan orchard, but some theoretically sane Americans still listen to them and take them seriously. Maybe the psychiatric field should come up with a new term for people who still cling to the Bush agenda--"compensated lemmings."

The celebrated 20th century logician Bertrand Russell said that "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."

I'm not the wisest guy in the world, but I had doubts about the Bush administration when it came into office. I was vaguely aware that he was backed by a neoconservative cabal who had wild ideas about forging a 21st century American empire through armed force, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up when Dick Cheney started talking about restoring the power of the presidency. But what the heck, I figured. The system is too strong, too well established, for a group of wild-eyed ideologues to lead us down the road to aggressive fascism. Silly me.

Six years and change later, the fanatics and the fools who still follow them have turned the United States of America into a militaristic oligarchy with theocratic underpinnings. Our foreign policy is a shambles. Our instruments of power--military, diplomacy, economy and information--are broken. Rule of law is a "quaint and obsolete" notion, and the Constitution itself has become a non-binding resolution.

The lasting legacy of the Bush administration will be that the only thing we have to fear is the people who govern us.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.


  1. In Nov. 2000, I had bigger things to think about (mid-divorce; child custody). Best I recall, I wasn't a huge Gore fan, but thought he'd do better than another Bush.

    After the FL fiasco, I still thought, well, maybe he'll have enough experience around him it won't be that bad. And maybe at least we can get away from the Clinton-scandal-media frenzy.

    But since Dec. 2000 it's basically been greed, corruption, lies, and incompetence.

    I never could've dreamed...!

  2. Jeff,

    I was in a similar situation at the time and thought much the same as you did.

    The unimaginable has come to pass, eh?

  3. I went directly from McCain to Gore, myself. I immediately disliked bush, when he started trying to buy votes with pour tax dollars. "If you elect me, I'll give you money" (or whatever it was he said in 2000) made me a democrat. After six years years of "borrow and waste", "tax and spend" is the very definition of responsibility.

  4. This quote about preemptive wars is absolutely damning.

    The American Experiment has its roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and, to be more precise, when it comes to political thought, largely in the Christian tradition. Whether one believes in the Resurrection of Christ or not, the fact remains inescapable that some of Europe's bestest and brightest minds spend centuries, almost millennia, thinking about what values make for a happy and prosperous society, and about war, and when it is a necessary evil that serves society, and when it must be avoided.

    They created a culture that far surpassed any other; it was Europeans who colonized the Americas, Africa, West Asia, and India, and not vice versa. One of the greatest accomplishments of European civilization is the theory of "Just War" the bellum justum of the Saint Thomas Aquinas, Kant and others. The conditions they laid down, which a war has to meet in order for it to be acceptable, certainly did shape European society, and are one of the big reasons why Europe surged ahead. (As late as 1100 or 1200 AD, Baghdad has a much higher standard of living than any European or American city.) To be sure, there were attempts to disregard or even rid Europe of these traditions, most notably the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the Nazis, which all ended in tears.

    The very idea of preempting any possible threat is complete insanity, because political stability has always depended on a balance of power, and an equilibrium of terror. This idea of politicians seeking to stop the establishment of a balance of power is as stupid and futile as harbor master trying to stop the motion of the tides in his harbor.

    When politicians who have just maneuvered their country into two wars that, at the very least, aren't going too well, proudly announce that they have dispensed with the conventions that account for our prosperity, the Barbarians are no longer at the gates. This is just as ominous as an electrician telling you that he will no longer differentiate between AC and DC when installing wiring, or a gas station attendant gloating that on his watch, customers pumping gas into their cars will no longer be expected to not smoke. The only possible outcome of preemption of any possible threat is a mad quest for global domination, perpetual war for perpetual peace if you will.

    To associate the Bible-bearing flatterers and sycophants who grovel at our hick-president's feet with a full-blooded theocracy, similar to those Europe once had, is a grave insult to the wise (and generally holy) men who guided Europe's fortunes in a bygone age.

  5. cs: Erm, the wise and holy men of Europe certainly did their share of absolute luncay. Case in point were the crusades, wich certainly should ring a bell in the US these days. I still harbour a lingering doubt that the real reason the admin. didnt plan for any post-invasion phase was that they expected Jesus himself to take charge after the conquering of Babylon, or something along those lines.

    Jeff: An interesting point about Roves dictum is that the definitional power of who is a terrorist becomes the key driving factor of US foreign policy. It politically plays out to basically this: All you need to exterminate your enemies through the means of the US powers anywhere in the world, is to have those enemies labeled as terrorists. Ka-Ching.

  6. Anonymous12:14 PM

    Just a note here. I was reading a Vanity Fair while waiting at the doctor's office and the whole neocon, PNAC cabal is now blaming Bush & Co. for all of this mess. Their plan was perfect, it was just incompetently managed.

    Have we finally come to an age where no one, in any position is willing to accept responsibility for their actions? It's like the 3rd grade is running everything.

    I'm very fearful of and for the future of this country. More and more it seems the systems are rigged not to provide for good governance or leadership, but simply to retain absolute power. The worst part is that the majority of Americans seem to accept this now as business as usual.

    I think darker days are ahead.

  7. mk: The Crusades were started before Thomas Aquinas codified the Just War Theory, which had a loophole for conquering what is now Israel.

    My understanding is that the Crusades helped the Venetians obtain much better conditions in the spice trade; I'm not sure it was lunacy for them to get indolent European aristocrats to go tie up their business rivals. I also understand that between say 1200 and 1798, wars in Europe were generally so localized that civilians 10 or 15 miles from the front were generally not affected by the fighting, which tended to be the equivalents of a border realignment process.

    I can't think of anything comparable to the devastation wreaked by World War I, World War II, Stalin and Mao in the time between 1200 and 1798, and that was my point. Europe's royalty may have sent some peasants to die in battle against each other, but at the end of the day, they still inter-married and carried on. I don't think they would ever have stood for a leader saying he would attack anyone who he felt could be a threat.

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