What follows is a comment to my blog "True or False" from Dennis, a friend and fellow musician. I am writing this specific response because I ran across Dennis yesterday in a music store and he shared with me a little concern that our divergent views might somehow affect our friendship. While I reassured him that such would not be the case I thought it would be important to follow up on my assurances in writing so I could spell out why I think creating and sharing information and different viewpoints is such an important part of the human experience, all the more so when it is done is a convivial manner wwithout the need to personalize or denigrate those who do not share identical views. Dennis writes: "For the first time I find myself taking an opposing view to your blog-- I think you give Bush (he who would be King) too much credit for the events in the world. Regarding Reagan, and all the positive views the historians are now writing, it seems to me that the end of the cold war and Reagan's role in that was more of an empire that was sick economically under the command economy of state socialism, sick because it ruled only by raw military power that was now completely second rate--lack of maintenance of the military infrastructure and the emerging consciousness due to many factors, not the least the role of the Pope in Poland and other satellite countries. Reagan deserves credit for his single minded purpose to defeat communism, but he could not do it except for the fact that the Soviet Empire had rotted from within.--It remains to be seen if we are doing the very same thing as we try to support massive nation-building (which Bush decried when Clinton was involved in Bosnia)
So my point is that I think that the historical forces as work are so much larger than any given President's capacities. If it turns out well, --well, I think that President is just darn lucky. If it turns out badly--we crucify him. Much of Reagan's influence was more like the martial arts,--say judo--where you focus on your opponents momentum and use that to trip him up, letting him defeat himself, with minimal effort on your part.
I don't think that Bush had the best advice concerning Iraq, he would have done well to listen to the reason Cheney gave when Bush senior decided not to invade Baghdad and remove Saddam in the first Gulf War. At that time, he raised the question that if we toppled Saddam, how could you be sure you could control the situation with three strongly divided ethnic groups. Would the military remain intact? Colin Powell also warned "If you break it, you own it."
Bush inherited a seriously weakened intelligence service, weakened under the interpretations of the law by Clinton Justice Department prohibiting sharing information between the CIA, FBI and the military. He also retained ("It's a slam dunk, Mr. President") George Tenet. He faced an Iraq that wanted the world to believe it had biological weapons which it had already used to kill hundreds of thousands of Kurds and thousands of Shiites. He wanted the world to believe he had or was close to having nuclear weapons. He kicked out the nuclear, chemical and biological inspectors that he had agreed to under the settlement of the first Gulf War. And he refused to abide by nearly 20 UN resolutions.
All the evidence for the war had the review of both houses of Congress, and the record is clear--all leading politicians took the same stand, that Saddam had to be stopped.
After the invasion, we failed to find the weapons--and it is true there were some isolated voices even then that there was no nuclear program, the biological program could be restarted but there was no clear evidence of its existence at the time of the invasion.
Concerning that point, I heard an interview with a CEO of a medium sized company comment, that if he had 99 people in his company recommend a certain course of action, and had one objector, he would go with the 99. OK, so it turns out the 99 are wrong. On the next issue that comes up, will he go with the 99 again, or with the one objector. Again he said he would go with the 99. It would be a real matter of faith to think that guy would get it right both times when everyone else was wrong. Not that it could not happen. The Bible is full of cases just like that--but then the objector was in God's direct service and had a direct line of communication.
As I read Bush, I think he is a fine human being. A man who believes in God. He has described his walk of faith, and how a particular sermon by his pastor in Texas struck him--that he was being called to run for the Presidency. Also not to worry how it would turn out. If he lost, he would accept that just as if he would win--he was just trusting that God would have His will done.
I have rambled a lot here, but my point is simply, we give far too much credit (and blame) to the sitting president for the events that come to pass. Is Bush supposed to oversee the quality of the intelligence agencies the day he takes office? Is Bush to blame for the insanity and horrendous behavior of the troops at Abu Graib? Is Bush responsible for the subprime mortgage crisis? Was it not Greenspan who called for more innovative mortgage products in the early 1990s? Did bush create the Enron scandal? Were Ford and later Carter to blame for the high inflation and high interest rates that occurred in the aftermath of the Vietnam war? Why do we give such credit to Bill Clinton for a great economy? Did we totally forget that the great Reagan gave us tax cuts and increased military spending at the same time? Bush tries to give us tax cuts and run 5 year war, and we have massive deficits. We had massive deficits under Reagan--and a subsequent war, but not nation rebuilding. When the "Soviet empire collapsed, Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff provided testimony to Congress on the "Peace Dividend" The delayed effect of the Reagan tax cuts, and now the Peace Dividend provided the impetus for a revived economy and a bull market. All Clinton had to do was listen to Alan Greenspan. He also had a Republican Congress that slowed down many of his domestic spending program. So the economy expanded, also with the high-tech markets, and Internet. We even had budget surpluses and a start on reducing the national debt. The government started to call back the treasury notes with higher interest to reduce the debt service even faster. But we did not have a war going on. When we were attacked by terrorists some 10-15 times during Clinton's eight years--we just lobbed a few missiles--no serious response.
I don't have a clue how history will view Bush--I just identify with the extreme pressure he is under, and a common view that the sitting president has all the keys for a glorious future for the world or the keys to its collapse. I really think that all of these presidents are basically simple men. Just reading their biographies makes me much more sympathetic to how they responded to the issues of their day. I think a view that characterizes a simple man as "He who would be king" is grossly distorted."