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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bush, Iraq, and Winston Churchill

Among his many accomplishments, Winston Churchill is author of two of my favorite quotes

History is written by winners


History will be kind to me for I intend to write it

Both these quotes were used by Churchill during WWII. Chruchill is now rightly lionized the world over but there were dark days during WWII when things looked really bad for his own legacy not to mention the country he lead. Yet, Churchill knew then that ultimately warfare is the fairest being there is. All that matters are the results. Churchill understand that ultimately his fate and legacy rested in victory. Through its darkest days, Churchill never lost sight of this and always believed that in the end he would be on the right side of history. Ultimately, he was proven right.

In fact, that is the nature of the beast in warfare. Lincoln has rightly been lionized. So much so, that most people don't know just how difficult the Civil War was. They don't know how close he came to losing. Most don't know that for four years he fumbled through the war and made mistake after mistake. In fact, most don't know that Lincoln's opponents not only chided his incompetence but called the Civil War a war of choice. Here is how his Democratic opponents characterized Lincoln and the Civil War in 1864.\

Resolved, That this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretense of a military necessity of war-power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view of an ultimate convention of the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that, at the earliest practicable moment, peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States.

It is in this context that I view the never ending criticism of Bush by pundits and opponents. There is a near never ending stream of criticism of his entire Presidency. His legacy will no doubt be complicated and certainly the current state of the economy will be an x factor. That will be determined by how deep this recession gets. Yet, Bush's critics would also like to reverse the natural order of things on warfare as well. Now that the Iraq War has clearly been won, his critics seem to think that they can will his legacy on this matter negatively regardless. This piece by Steve Chapman is a great example, though one of many.

Bush insisted on fighting a war that didn't need to be fought, on the assumption it would be easy, for purposes that could have been achieved without getting more than 4,200 Americans killed and 30,000 wounded, not to mention squandering upward of a trillion dollars.

The problem is not that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction (as UN weapons inspectors in Iraq were on their way to confirming before the war began). It's that even if he did, they would have been militarily worthless, because using them would have guaranteed his immediate annihilation -- which explains why Hussein didn't use chemical weapons in the first Gulf War. WMD or not, he was a danger we could easily contain.

His critics call it a distraction, a waste of money, and a waste of treasure. Of course, his critics won't decide how its viewed. This war, like all wars, will be viewed through a very simple prism, who won. With the long and frustrating failure of four years of Rumsfeld policy still fresh in our minds, his critics seem to think that this is also how history will judge him. It won't. Lincoln had a similar run of failure and history has made those four years a footnote as well. FDR's first two years of WWII were no picnic either, yet, that's barely more than a footnote now. So, too, will the Iraq War be written by its winners as well. That winner is the United States of America and it was led by George Bush.

History will be kind to Bush on Iraq much like it was kind to Lincoln. History doesn't focus on his four years of failure. Instead, history focuses on him finally getting it right. History will spend very little time on the four years that Bush fumbled through the war with Rumsfeld, and instead, it will focus on Bush changing strategy and having that strategy work.

Frankly, history should do this. Everyone understands that war is tough and no one comes out of it without making all sorts of mistakes. Ultimately, what matters are the results. It matters not that Lincoln couldn't figure out a good strategy for four years. What matters was that he finally found U.S. Grant and lead the North to victory. In the same way, it won't matter much that Bush got it wrong for four years. What will matter was that once and for all he got it right.

Furthermore, the spoils of victory will be long lasting. Iraq will be free for generations. The dictatorship has turned into a Democracy. Removing a tyrant and replacing that tyrant with a Democracy is a legacy we'd all like to have. That is the legacy that awaits George Bush regarding the Iraq War. That legacy awaits him because like all wars, history will be written by the winner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The past participle of "to lead" is spelled "led" not "lead"

Bush led us to victory.