Marginal Footnotes

Courage and Iraq
May 5, 2006, 12:47 pm
Filed under: Media, Politics, Uncategorized

Josh Marshall suggests that the president's cowardice with respect to changing policy in Iraq and his willingness to trudge through the remainder of his term only to pass off the predicament (which is both America's and Iraq's) to the next president 'is really the issue' as far as George Packer's piece in The New Yorker goes. 

It certainly is an issue, but I do not think it is the issue.  First, I think the president knows that he's going to be judged by history on the basis of this war, and I think he thinks things will likely work out on the current trajectory, given sufficient time and patience. It seems to me that George Bush thinks he will succeed, eventually, and that no conceivable alternative policy options are any more suitable than those posited by his administration. He has a teleological belief in his the rightness of his approach.  This of course is a more serious problem than his desire to simply wait things out, because it suggests he will continue to resist new ideas and approaches for what he believes are good reasons.  If he were simply watching the clock, he might be more inclined to try something new.  

Second, the issue that Packer's piece is really concerned with, it seems to me, is Bush's well-documented theological belief in his own rightness, his self-validation though righteousness, through the all-mighty.  As Packer puts it,

'It seems that unless God himself gains entry to the West Wing and informs the President that the Iraqis’ desire to be free is not the issue, a grandiose theology will continue to doom America and Iraq to a bloody stalemate'.

Packer wonders whether there can at least be wisdom in Washington even if there remain no 'wise men'.  But he is able only to meekly posit two alternatives to the current policy, one by John Kerry which he (and most everyone else) rejects, and one by Gelb and Biden, which he only tepidly endorses, and appears only to do so because it represents a change from the failed status quo.  So there appears to be no 'wise men' and no wisdom, but since the president has an unassailable faith in his own rightness regarding what should be done in Iraq, it seems hardly to matter.


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