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Giving George W. Bush Some Credit.
Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of the left-leaning magazine The New Republic argues that liberals need to give President Bush at least a little bit of credit for the success thus far on that whole "vision thing."
You should really read the whole thing.
If George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others. He pursued his goal obstinately, they would say, without filtering his thoughts through the medical research establishment. And he didn't share his research with competing labs and thus caused resentment among other scientists who didn't have the resources or the bold--perhaps even somewhat reckless--instincts to pursue the task as he did. And he completely ignored the World Health Organization, showing his contempt for international institutions. Anyway, a cure for cancer is all fine and nice, but what about aids?
No, the president has not discovered a cure for cancer. But there is a pathology, a historical pathology, that he has attacked with unprecedented vigor and with unprecedented success. I refer, of course, to the political culture of the Middle East, which the president may actually have changed. And he has accomplished this genuinely momentous transformation in ways that virtually the entire foreign affairs clerisy--the cold-blooded Brent Scowcroft realist Republicans and almost all the Democrats--never thought possible. Or, perhaps, in ways some of them thought positively undesirable. Bush, it now seems safe to say, is one of the great surprises in modern U.S. history. Nothing about his past suggested that he harbored these ideals nor the qualities of character required for their realization. Right up to the moment Bush became president, I was convinced that his mind, at least on matters Levantine, belonged to his father and to James Baker III, whose worldview seemed to be defined by the pecuniary prejudice of oil and Texas: Keep the ruling Arabs happy. But I was wrong, and, in light of what has already been achieved in the Middle East, I am glad to say so. Most American liberals, alas, enjoy no similar gladness. They are not exactly pleased by the positive results of Bush's campaign in the Middle East. They deny and resent and begrudge and snipe. They are trapped in the politics of churlishness.
The achievements of Bush's foreign policy abroad represent a revolution in the foreign policy culture at home. The traditional Republican mentality that was so perfectly and meanly represented by Bush père and Baker precluded the United States from pressing the Arabs about reform--about anything--for decades.
Peretz explains the electoral consequences of the left's churlishness:
The significant fact is that Bush's obsession with the democratization of the region is working. Have Democrats begun to wonder how it came to pass that this noble cause became the work of Republicans? They should wonder if they care to regain power.
So what are the liberals bloggers saying about it?
We've been holding off on commenting on the article for nearly a week, hoping a liberal blog, ANY liberal blog, would make a peep about it, either positively or negatively.
To give George W. Bush credit for compelling democracy in the Middle East would mean, essentially, admitting defeat. All those thousands of posts over the past few years about those dangerous neocons would now seem absurd. All of those predictions about the Iraq war creating new terrorists would look silly. All of those dire warnings about George Bush's Vietnam would become but bizarre anachronisms of history.
Liberals (and some conservatives) have gotten themselves into quite a predicament. Rooting for success in the Middle East means, perhaps, admitting President Bush was right all along. It means that removing Saddam Hussein and promoting a free society in Iraq was not some oil grab, or some act of irresponsible hubris, or just a big scam on the American people; rather, promoting democracy might have actually been the aim all along.
Rooting against success, against democracy, against President Bush, well, that's just churlish and tacky.
Judging by the lack of a splash the Peretz article has made in the left hemisphere of the blogosphere, it seems there may be either a quiet acceptance of George W. Bush's Middle East triumph, or, more likely a "wait-and-see," "wouldn't-want-to-jump-the-gun," "there's-still-a-chance-for-disaster" attitude.
If and when liberals determine that this whole democracy thing is actually pretty cool, you can bet they will default to this argument:
But, Bush still lied about the war. If he had just been truthful all along about the democracy stuff, we would have supported it.
We've dissected this argument in a post called "Jon Stewart's Cognitive Dissonance."
Indeed, while weapons of mass destruction were a large part of the case for war against Iraq, they weren't by a long shot the only case. And freedom and democracy in the greater Middle East were not merely post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this) justifications (or, if you prefer, excuses).
There's still a lot of bad that could happen in the Middle East over the next several years, some of which is pretty horrible to think about. But the hope exhibited on the part of democratic reformers in places like Iraq and Lebanon, and even Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the greater Middle East (and for that matter, the world), are nothing short of miraculous.
Posted by Will Franklin · 7 April 2005 05:18 PM
...Did I just read that? Did a liberal really just give Bush credit? WOW! I honestly feel that one of the biggest problems in America is the resentment that the Democrats have against... well everything. Hopefully more people will read this and possibly become enlightened.
Posted by: Carly Franklin at April 7, 2005 09:50 PM
Judging from the passages you cite in your entry, Peretz seems to be just about the only liberal in America who is being honest about liberals' visceral hatred of George W. Bush (except maybe for Christopher Hitchens, at least some of the time).
Posted by: Matthew Vadum at April 9, 2005 09:47 PM
The Democrats only argument seems to be the WOMD. Which is so lame! The biggest weapon of mass destruction was Saddam himself! This world is a much better place because of George W. Bush! We are so fortunate to have him in office! Next stop ALQuida. Watch out ossama! You coward...
Posted by: Buffy at April 11, 2005 11:40 AM