October 21, 2005
Bush's Flaws Should Not Obscure His Major Triumphs
son of a b---- was right!"
So said Ernest Borgnine's
"Mr. Rogo" character at the end of "The Poseidon
Adventure," speaking of the just-martyred preacher played
by Gene Hackman, as Borgnine realized that the preacher had indeed
led them to safety despite Rogo's constant criticism.
Several years from
now, honest Americans will be saying much the same thing about
the leadership of President George W. Bush on the most important
decision of his presidency: the war in Iraq.
Like Hackman's preacher
character, our president has made some mistakes, stepped on toes,
made himself at times unlikable.
But also like Hackman,
the president's key insight was and still is correct, his steadfastness
admirable in the face of hostile criticism.
The critics sounded
unhinged even before Iraq: As early as nine days after 9/11, breathless
columnists were warning against getting into a "quagmire"
Then the critics claimed
that Afghanistan obviously had been child's play all along, but
that we shouldn't dare go into Iraq without another resolution
from the United Nations.
So we got the U.N.
resolution, and the critics said we shouldn't go in anyway.
When we did
go in, all the "quagmire" talk started again, and The
New York Times treated us to near-daily editorials giving,
in its own words, "gloomy assessments" on the war to
overthrown Saddam Hussein.
Every time the Bush-led
effort met with success, the critics moved the goal posts without
so much as a single admission that their earlier warnings were
Bush was incompetent
because we couldn't capture Saddam -- until we did.
about Saddam having harbored terrorists -- even though we found
a whole terrorist training camp called Salman Pak, and even though
the main terrorist about whom Colin Powell warned (Abu Masab al-Zarqawi)
did indeed turn out to be there in Iraq, intent on beheadings
and a jihad that continues to this day.
said the parliamentary elections last January would be a mess
-- until they went off without a hitch.
Then they said the
temporary parliament would never be able to produce a constitution
-- until it did.
Finally, the overall
Bush vision was bolstered not once last week, but twice, in a
fashion everybody would consider absolutely dramatic if the major
media hadn't given them short shrift.
First, U.S. intelligence
services released a letter to terrorist al-Zarqawi written by
Osama bin Laden's top deputy. Point by point, the letter confirmed
what Bush had said all along: that al-Zarqawi and al-Qaida had
long-standing ties, that the "insurgency" in Iraq was
far more a foreign-led jihad than it was native unrest, that the
jihad in Iraq is vastly unpopular among the majority of Iraqis,
and that even the al-Qaida leaders themselves say that "more
than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of
Second, the Iraqi
people turned out in huge numbers to vote on the proposed constitution,
which garnered an overwhelming majority nationwide and even passed,
apparently, in two Sunni-majority provinces.
And the election was
conducted safely under the protection of native Iraqi personnel,
without American military taking the lead.
The American critics
had predicted, of course, that the elections would be unsafe without
major use of American troops, and that Sunni-majority provinces
were an even-money bet to vote the charter down.
Still the naysayers
say the American effort is failing. "Another Viet nam!"
they say -- and so does the al-Qaida letter to al-Zarqawi.
Never mind that in
Vietnam the enemy was supplied by a communist superpower, and
never mind that in Vietnam more than 5,000 Americans were dying
In Iraq, however,
the enemy has no superpower support, and fewer than 2,000 Americans
(still, of course, nearly 2,000 too many) have given the last
true measure of devotion.
nearly 2,000 Americans (and the many wounded in battle, and the
many thousands who served without casualty) have accomplished
has been tremendous: 1) Overthrowing one of the two most dangerous
dictators on Earth. Saddam Hussein is on trial right now. 2) Through
the example of Saddam, frightening another dictator, Muammar Ghadafi,
into giving up his nuclear weapons program. 3) Introducing, step-by-step,
a constitutional republic into Iraq, the cradle of civilization.
4) Serving as the vanguard for the Bush Doctrine, which is the
name given the policy of supporting freedom and republican government
wherever it can take root.
That last accomplishment
is particularly noteworthy.
An observer would
have to be will fully blind -- like much of the American major
media -- not to credit the Bush Doctrine, and the Colin Powell/Condi
Rice diplomacy, for playing a large part in inspiring democratic
reforms in Ukraine, formerly Soviet Georgia, Lebanon, Indonesia,
Afghanistan, Iraq and even in some ways in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
None of which is to
deny missteps aplenty by this administration. The original post-war
planning for Iraq was a travesty of confusion, in-fighting and
incompetence; the failure to use more troops to help seal the
borders with Syria and Iran was utterly indefensible.
On the domestic
front, our big-spending president might as well be named Lyndon
Baines Bush for his vigorous expansion of government (example:
the outrageously expensive Medicare drug program) and his dangerous
aggregation of executive power.
Now comes the inexplicable
nomination for the Supreme Court of Harriet Miers -- a good lawyer
but one under-qualified for the position -- a choice that pleases
no constituency but which has sent the conservative media and
grassroots into open revolt.
As shown with the
Miers choice, the president's arrogance and insularity are bad
The longer his administration
lasts, the greater the number of people who won't acknowledge
his successes as they happen, because more and more people start
to think of him as an SOB.
More's the pity. More
is the likelihood that credit will come only in retrospect. But
historians one day are likely to say that on the biggest subject
of Bush's presidency, on the biggest decisions he has made on
that subject -- and especially on his central insight that democracy
must be defended, expanded, and nurtured -- the beautiful SOB
Hillyer is an editorial writer for the Mobile
Register, where this column first
appeared. Readers can send e-mail to email@example.com.