Friday, December 02, 2005

Mr. President: Tear down this wall

To take politics at all seriously is to send yourself an engraved invitation to disappointment. Imagining that one elected official is going to set things to rights — even a modestly few things — is to make yourself hostage to a game where the odds are stacked against you, and the politicians who manage to climb the greasy pole do so in a world whose moral and philosophical content could be carried in a flea's purse.

So I am in no way shocked, or even much saddened, that the Wizard of Crawford, Texas has turned out to be — like he of Oz — not a bad man (unlike his predecessor), just not a very good wizard.

But it does require a strenuous attitude adjustment. I voted for George W. Bush in 2004 to be my country's president (although even then it was somewhat a matter of faute de mieux). A couple of years before that, say in the eight or ten months following Sept. 11, I honestly thought he might turn out to be one of our great chief executives. He seemed — nay, was, back then — that rarest of political figures, someone operating on principle and damn the opinion polls and pundits of the mainstream media. Bush also won my respect when, instead of responding to the terrorist plot with a symbolic public relations stunt (e.g., ordering the lobbing of a few missiles addressed "To Whom It May Concern"), he oversaw a slow-to-ignite, meticulous plan that took down the regime in Afghanistan that had harbored the Al-Qaeda terrorists.

What followed the Iraq invasion, which I still believe was a highly moral act, was an extraordinary military victory followed by a debacle of the highest order in which we entrapped ourselves through our own success. He should have been content with ridding the world of Saddam and establishing a permanent military presence in Iraq, while leaving the factions that had been fighting one another in that country since Genghis Khan was knee high to a hound dog to get it together. Instead, Bush opted t0 spend American lives trying to create an Anglosphere-style democracy, among people for whom that concept meant as much as the Martian Bill of Rights.

That isn't saying that Iraqis can never acheive a reasonably free and benign society. I'm not that cynical about human nature, even human nature that has been stewed in Islamic dementia for 1400 years. But the president I used to admire seems to have taken those remarkable military successes as a sign from God (whether literally or figuratively is hard to tell) that he could remake the earth. "Democracy" was the magic elixir that would turn the Middle East into a church social.

With every passing day, it has become more obvious to practically everyone (including many favorably disposed to Bush) that his utopian vision is going pear-shaped. And what was under other circumstances a Bush strength, namely his willingness to stand his ground even when subjected to the most extreme and outlandish abuse any president has had to endure, has become a factor in his gathering downfall. The man lacks any mental flexibility. He seems to equate changing his mind with weakness. He doesn't learn from experience.

Once Bush settles an issue for himself, his position seems to possess him. End of discussion.

I know less than the average person about the president's associates — that sort of political-insider gossip bores me — but it seems likely that he surrounds himself with people whose first spoken word was "yes" and whose vocabulary hasn't noticeably widened since, and with advisors hand-picked to give him the advice that he has already given himself. Even Bush's public appearances are starting to be hermetically sealed. Lawrence Auster writes, concerning the president's recent pep rally:
Bush gave the speech, as he seems to have given all of his speeches on Iraq, to a military audience, clearly conveying the message that he doesn’t feel confident to address an audience of civilians on this urgent national issue, but must have an audience of ready-made, 22-year-old yes-men, thrilled to be in the presence of their commander in chief. It is as though Bush sees America as a banana republic, or as a country like Pakistan, in which the only reliable national institution is the military.
Bush's desire to deliver his message in the presence of a presumably groveling audience can also be seen in his tactics for pushing a de facto U.S. merger with Mexico. In support of his philomexican obsession and his stealth plan for amnesty for illegal immigrants, he chose to relaunch his stuttering open borders campaign in a speech in my former home town of Tucson, Arizona. Since Tucson is a mere 60 miles or so from Mexico, and a fair number of its citizens are of Mexican descent, El Presidente Fox-Bush (or his yes-persons) seems to have assumed that his proposals would be warmly received down there in Mexizona.

If he had any real contact with people in Tucson other than selected cheerleaders, he might have learned something. But the odds are he left as ignorant as he arrived. Bush has done something no politician of any stripe can afford to do — he's insulated himself from political reality outside his circle of sycophants. He's built a wall with gates that open only outward.

No matter how deep his own feelings run, Bush the leader should — if he cares about what's good for him and his party — peek over the ramparts he's surrounded himself with. If he could bring himself to do that, he would understand that a substantial majority of Americans (including some of immigrant stock) are extremely concerned about his failure to enforce immigration laws and his collusion with a Mexican president keen to export Mexico's problems to America.

He'd understand why, in border areas, more and more people are taking it on themselves to do the job of that the federal government is supposed to do but isn't, stopping the invasion of illegals. (Bush calls the Minutemen "vigilantes," as if notifying the authorities when you see people breaking the law is contrary to the way things are supposed to work.) If you think that's not a healthy situation, I agree. But when the president of the United States contemptuously ignores the law and public sentiment, what else can they do?

Mr. President, get out of Fortress Bush, listen for a change, and think. Tear down this wall.


John Rudkin said...

1. Like many in the UK, I thought that going into Iraq was justified by the evidence presented beforehand - which turned out not to be incorrect.
2. The wise man learns from other people's mistakes....the fool doesn't learn from his own mistakes. (John Rudkin)

John Rudkin said...

I have just learned from my mistake: always take the option of seeing a preview! As the last word under my comment 1.I should have written "correct", not "incorrect"!

Rick Darby said...


There were many other good reasons for disturbing the horrible "peace" in Iraq besides WMD. Unfortunaely, Bush got ahold of that one idea and repeated it endlessly, like an advertising slogan, instead of trusting the voters' intelligence and acknowledging the complex issues: that Iraq had ignored its agreement that ended the Gulf War, that it was in violation of a UN resolution, that it was financing suicide bombers, that it imprisoned, tortured, killed huge numbers of its own citizens, etc.

By sticking to one simplistic idea (although it was a credible threat at the time), Bush put all his chips on a single number on one spin of the wheel. When that particular number didn't come up, he lost his credibility.

We did Iraq and the world a big favor by ending one of the worst regimes anywhere and giving the other tyrants of the Middle East notice that they do not have a free hand. We should now establish military bases in Iraq, as we did in Germany and Japan after Shooting Match II, and leave the rest of the country to sort itself or go to hell on its own. We have gained all we can; there is nothing more to win that is worth the lives and expense of continued intervention.