Friday, May 28, 2004

Jon Meacham is lost in the details while he tries to teach Bush the “true” lessons from Churchill and FDR. I just do not get it. Meacham criticizes Bush for taking too simplistic and selective an approach to historical lessons, but then does much the same himself.

First, he assumes “…no doubt that the early returns on Bush’s war leadership are troubling.” Meacham may be doubtless troubled, but I doubt that everyone doubts the returns of Bush’s leadership. But that doesn’t stop Meacham from supporting his troubled argument with doubtful anti-Bush claims:

“Despite the administration's claims, there is still no convincing evidence of Iraqi ties to terrorism; no weapons of mass destruction have been found; we have not been greeted as liberators, and more Americans have died in Iraq since Bush prematurely declared victory aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln a year ago than had died there before. So the president has a learning curve to master…” Come now Meacham, no weapons of mass destruction? And no ties to terror? Sure, the evidence of terror ties maybe circumstantial, but what are we trying to do, sue them or defeat them. And I recall many Iraqis celebrating the overthrow of Saddam. The fact that life has to go on beyond that celebration (admittedly curbed by the threat of terror) does not invalidate it. And Bush rightly declared the end of major military operations in Iraq in a speech that correctly marked the end of the Baathist government and the beginning of the reconstruction. If that’s too subtle a point for Meacham to understand, it’s not Bush’s fault.

When Meacham tries to point out differences in planning and events between WWII and The War on Terror, he choose petty and doubtful examples:

“…and the landings on the Normandy coast 60 summers ago were the result of years of thought, planning and debate—endless, frustrating, face-to-face arguments among the British, the Americans and the Soviets.” Implying that the Iraq invasion was an impromptu response. But after Bob Woodward’s book, I thought the left now has been criticizing Bush for planning the invasion of Iraq well before 9/11? Regardless of Woodward’s claim, the discourse on an Iraqi invasion was publicly underway shortly after 9/11, a year and half before the invasion.

And then this assertion: “The British people can face peril or misfortune with fortitude and buoyancy. But they bitterly resent being deceived or finding that those responsible for their affairs are themselves dwelling in a fool's paradise." Of course, this assumes that Bush new the WMD claims were bogus and went on with it anyway. Personally, the fool’s paradise I see was from the previous administration which thought that serious action against terrorism wasn’t necessary and that the U.S. could be everyone’s friend.

“Acknowledging error is not weakness; it can be wise statecraft. ‘It is common sense to take a method and try it,’ Roosevelt said. ‘If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.’ Churchill is great not only because he refused to give in to Hitler but because he understood the art of alliance.” All of which, applies to Bush. He’s not averse to changing tactics or methods to achieve a goal – though he knows better than to feed a frenzied press needless apologies. Perhaps one of his greatest mistakes as president was to admit that the 16 words in his 2003 SOTU address were a mistake.

This nitpicking only has traction if you believe the occupation to be a disaster, which is a misunderstanding itself when you ask the historical question: compared to what?

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