Test of History for George W. Bush
People on the left complain about George W. Bush.
They don't like his cowboy boots, or his cowboy talk.
They think he doesn't think. They make that judgment on the basis of his clipped, laconic, sometimes searching way of speaking — like searching for the right word.
Neither Bill Clinton (search) nor Tony Blair (search) has this problem. Both of them always have the right word. It's a helpful trait if you're going to be making decisions about war and peace.
People want to know you've thought long and hard before ordering men and women to war. They want to know you have good reasons and that the reasons stand up to vigorous attack.
I must say that I like George W. Bush (search) for a lot of reasons, but this isn't one of them. He never has been good at explaining himself, and now things have gotten really bad because he really, really, really needs to explain why we are still holding the Iraqis hand and why we can't just get the hell out of there.
There are good reasons: We aren't staying because we like the place and we aren't staying for the oil. We're like China and India: We buy oil and we buy it on the open market. Only U.N. insiders needed Iraq for oil because they were getting it as bribe payment. The rest of us just pay.
But Bush's support for the war is falling off like leaves in autumn. And that shouldn't be.
He should be able to articulate the reasons we're there without sounding like a broken record.
He should be able to say why we'll stay a certain length of time — long enough for them to get ready to protect themselves — and then if they seem like they will fail forever, we'll probably have to go, and say, "Hey, we gave it a good shot."
He should be able to convince people that this was a war worth fighting and it's a war worth winning. The latter is harder than the first. It's hard to hang in long enough to actually win. But it is worth it.
Can there be an Arab democracy? Lawrence of Arabia (search) tried, failed and walked away. Now the test of history for George W. Bush: Will he hang in? And can he explain it well enough that the American people will hang in with him?
That's My Word.
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