Thursday, September 18, 2008

Polishing The Clown

The usually erudite Dr. Charles Krauthammer is the latest in a series of commentators to indulge in an exercise best characterized as mental masturbation, assessing George W. Bush's place in history using an interview he did this week with the current occupant of the White House as...ummm..stimulation.

While correctly stating that it's early days to be indulging in such an exercise,the good doctor jumps right in and does it anyway:

Bush is much like Truman, who developed the sinews of war for a new era (the Department of Defense, the CIA, the NSA), expanded the powers of the presidency, established a new doctrine for active intervention abroad, and ultimately engaged in a war (Korea) -- also absent an attack on the United States -- that proved highly unpopular.

So unpopular that Truman left office disparaged and highly out of favor. History has revised that verdict. I have little doubt that Bush will be the subject of a similar reconsideration.

Odd that Dr. Krauthammer, who usually knows better, would characterize Bush as a war president. At best, the man who told us after 9/11 that our enemies' creed was peace, that we were in a `war on terror' but that the government should handle it and we should all just go shopping and allowed our nation's unity,natural anger and energy to dissipate doesn't seem like that much of a war leader to me.

Actually, Truman ain't a half bad comparison in some ways, although I doubt Krauthammer realizes how good. Tell you what, Doc. I'll see you your Truman comparison and raise you a decade or two.

It's the fashion to deify Truman these days, but the little ward politician from Missouri has an uncanny similarity to Dubbyah in that his tenure in office was a decidedly mixed bag.

Like Dubbyah, Truman was thrust into the position of being a war president, but in Truman's case the war was almost won, the commanders, planning and mechanisms were already in place and Harry Truman's two chief areas that called for major wartime decisions involved the atomic bomb and what to do about Eastern Europe. He got the first one right and failed abysmally at the second, dooming Eastern Europe to communist slavery and tyranny because of his ineptitude in dealing with the Soviets.Truman trusted Unky Joe Stalin. Almost as if he looked into his soul, the way Dubbyah did with Putin!

For all the heroics of the Red Army, they were dependent on us for supplies, and at that point we were the only ones that had the atomic bomb.Does anyone seriously doubt that if a more decisive president had told them to get their behinds out of Eastern Europe or face the consequences they would have done so?

Part of Truman's problems in foreign policy stemmed from the fact that his administration was riddled with Soviet spies and sympathizers, and Truman's lackadaisical attitude towards cracking down on them cost us our atom bomb secrets and probably a hostile relationship with China, where Truman continued to back Chiang Kai Shek and the Kuomintang against both his own inclinations (if we believe his memoirs)and the advice of his own military theater commander General Stillwell because of how cosy the Chiangs and the China Lobby were with prominent Democrats.

There's an eerie echo of this in Dubbyah's cozy relationship with his family's bidness partners the Saudis and the UAE, his stacking his administration with Saudi friendly cabinet members and his refusal to crack down on wahabi jihadist mosques and madrassahs here in America...but at least Truman didn't have his family's money tied up with our ideological enemies, nor did he raise money from them to create some grandiose $500 million presidential library...I'll give him that.

Another thing you have to give Harry Truman and George Marshall is the success of the Marshall Plan, which undoubtedly saved what was left of Europe for the West,or at least for the New Caliphate, although that last can hardly be blamed on Truman if it happens.

Similarly, you have to give Dubbyah credit for tax cuts and jump starting the economy out of a recession, even after taking a huge hit after 9/11.And for managing to keeop th ecountry fr0om absorbing another major terrorist attack, although if you read these pages regularly you know we've also been incredibly lucky...sometimes in spite of our efforts to blow it.

Another eerie similarity between Presidents Bush and Truman is their relationships with Israel.Truman is revered by Jewish Democrats because he reluctantly agreed at the last minute to have the US vote in the UN to create the State of Israel, but they conveniently forget that he did absolutely nothing to help the new nation survive when they were set upon by 7 Arab armies.

As a matter of fact, he placed an arms embargo on Israel, forbade American Jews from going over there to help fight off the Arabs and refused to intervene with the British, who were arming, training and in the case of Jordan officering the Arab armies who had pledged to massacre every Jew in Israel. And this a mere three years after Auschwitz was liberated.

George W. Bush's record with Israel isn't quite that egregious, but it may turn out that way if Condi Rice, one of the worst secretaries of state in US history has her way.

President Bush had an excellent relationship with Israel and Ariel Sharon after 9/11, finally getting in a visceral way what it was like to see civilians blown up. But in the end, the Saudis and his Arab friendly cabinet members ended up speaking the loudest,especially during his second term. Bush not only acquiesced to reneging on his amended agreement with Sharon over the infamous Road Map,but to embracing the Saudi's peace plan and arm twisting the weakest government in Israel's history to make it happen.

Of course, the big push Krauthammer makes for Dubbyah's place in history has to do George W. Bush's intervention in Iraq:

....history has not yet rendered its verdict on the Iraq war. We can say that it turned out to be longer and more costly than expected, surely. But the question remains as to whether the now-likely outcome -- transforming a virulently aggressive enemy state in the heart of the Middle East into a strategic ally in the war on terror -- was worth it. I suspect the ultimate answer will be far more favorable than it is today.

Well, you're right Doc...and you're wrong.

According to President Bush, our goals were to have a stable Iraq who would be democratic and an ally of ours in the so-called 'war on terror.' The goals themselves were absolutely farcical in terms of the reality on the ground and what our actual war aims should have been, and even at that we have only accomplished one out of three, stability. And it cost us 4,000 lives and a trillion dollars, much of which was wasted or stolen.

I pointed out some time ago, this was easy to see coming from a long way off.

What we've established in Iraq is a Shiite Islamic Republic based on Sharia with a great deal of its leadership friendly to our enemies in Iran. Iraq adheres religiously to a boycott of Israel that is against US law,and there has been
open season under our watch on Iraq's Christians, a story that rarely merits a mention in the dinosaur media.Iraq will no more be a 'ally ' of ours against our enemies than say, Saudi Arabia or Yemen and will limit their 'war on terror' activities to simply suppressing any dissident elements in their own society.

It's highly unlikely that we'll see the Iraqi Army we trained and equipped at such great expense sending troops to fight at our side against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Abu Sayef in the Philippines,or anywhere else. Nor will we see Iraq allowing US bases in their country or their ports or other facilities to be used by our military in any hostilities against our enemies in Iran. Maliki and his friends have said so many times.

If things turn out differently, it will be because of the valiant performance and bravery of our warriors and the leadership of Generals Petraeus and Ordierno, not President Bush, who had to be dragged kicking and screaming into a new strategy. And I'll be the first to admit it.

Both Truman and Bush also appear to be similar in leaving messes for their successors to clean up. Bush will likely be leaving an energized and resurgent Russia, a country importing far too much oil from our enemies, Iran on the verge of becoming a nuclear power,a divided country, a border that's a sieve and a economy that's basically sound but with severe problems. Truman left the Cold War, the Soviets with the atom bomb, an economy in recession and an unfinished war in Korea.
The difference is that most of Truman's messes ended being cleaned up by his successors over the years, which is why his rep is as good as it is today. Bush appears to be leaving a lot more serious mess, and it remains to be seen if he too will get the revisionist treatment. Perhaps it all depends on who cleans up after him.


Anonymous said...

One entry found.

Main Entry: in·nu·en·do
Pronunciation: \ˌin-yə-ˈwen-(ˌ)dō, -yü-ˈen-\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural in·nu·en·dos or in·nu·en·does
Etymology: Latin, by nodding, from innuere to nod to, make a sign to, from in- + nuere to nod; akin to Latin nutare to nod — more at numen
Date: 1678
1 a: an oblique allusion : hint , insinuation ; especially : a veiled or equivocal reflection on character or reputation b: the use of such allusions; resorting to innuendo
2: a parenthetical explanation introduced into the text of a legal document

Anonymous said...

That's an interesting take about Truman, FF, I never thought of him that way.

Perhaps contributing to Truman's legacy is the fiasco of the Vietnam War and Watergate. During the 70s, Truman was a picture of better times, when politicians were perceived as more honest and honorable.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi louie
Heh! I must tell Weekend Monkey that you're dictionary friendly...have a great weekend!

Hey Nazar,
Here's a quote for you:

" I know what history will say about these times. I intend to write it."

Sir Winston, as always, knew what he was talking about.

Truman is deified because he was indeed, by and large, an honest man, especially where money was concerned. In that he differs from some of his successors.

Another reasson he has such a high rep these days is because most academics happen to be Democrats...and that's who's writing a lot of the history.

Think I'm exagerating? Take a look at bartlett's quotations some time.They have hardly anything by Ronald Reagan, a man who was probably the most influential president in modern times and who made some of the most memorablke speeches in history...because, as the wackademic( a Democrat, of course) who is in charge of the editorial arm admits, he despised Reagan.

The portrait I've painted here of Harry Truman is substantially true, albeit different than the popular perception.His administration was very much a mixed bag that fell far short of its potential - rather like the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Bush will not get the same being a Republican..and, as I stated, alot will depend on how themesses he left ultimately get cleaned up.

Dr. Krauthammer was more accurate than he perhaps realized.

Have a great a weekend..


Smithy said...

Hi! I think you're being way too hard on Truman. If FDR had kept Henry Wallace for the VP spot in 1944 (he was VP in previous Roosevelt administrations), we would have had a communist sympathizer as president after FDR died (think of Obama as president in 1945). I doubt Wallace would have stood up to Russia or even bothered with the Marshall plan. As to the creation of Israel, why would Wallace go against his own State Department?
In the environment after WWII the US didn't want another war. American public opinion wouldn't have supported the option of threatening Russia with war to get them out of Eastern Europe. Stalin recognizing a bluff would've done nothing. What then would Truman do?
It's very easy after 60 years to sit back and say what should have been done without really recognizing how brave Truman was for what he did do. I'm profoundly grateful we had a Truman administration after FDR. As a conservative Republican, I say THANK GOD FOR HARRY TRUMAN.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Smithy,
I don't think the choice was necessarily only between Wallace or Truman.

FDR was a dying man in 1944, but like most of us refused to recognize his own mortality and therefore pick a VP who could succeed him if he was incapacitated. The choice of Truman was a pragmatic political one designed solely with the election in mind..Roosevelt needed a Southerner and a more conservative pick and Henry Wallace, as you point out, was a commie.

Even after he was elected, FDR did nothing to prepare Truman to take over - it's a matter of record that Harry Truman wasn't even made aware of key elements of our war strategy like the Manhattan Project until after he was sworn in.

As to my point about Eastern Europe, I'm afraid you envision Truman calling a press conference and publicly challenging the Soviets.

Please don't take the example of the current occupant of the wWite House as the norm..very few presidents in our history have indulged in bellicose 'axis of evil' rhetoric unless they had already made a decision to back it up with action.

The Soviet domination of Eastern Europe was agreed to at Yalta by an ailing Roosevelt under the influence of one of his cheif foreign policy advisors, Alger Hiss...who we now know was a Soviet agent.

You also can't discount the influence of Soviet symphathizers like Hiss and others in the Truman administration and the Democrat party.

After Germany was defeated, there was no reason why Truman could have simply told the Russians that things had changed and that we required the Red Army to pull back to its borders post haste, or suffer the consequences. Remember, at that point we still had a well equipped army in Europe and the atom bomb, and would have had the assistance of nationalist elements in Eastern Europe who had no illusions about the Soviets. The Russian infrastructure was severely damaged and the Soviets were still almost entirely dependent on us for supplies.

Plus, 40 Soviet divisions were in the Far East occupying Manchuria, the Amur Valley and Sakhlin and essentially re-establishing control over Siberia. Stalin was a monster, but he wasn't stupid..he would have pulled back.General Patton and General Eisenhower both protested against letting the Soviets walk over Eastern Europe, but they were overuled by the Truman Administration, which considered the Soviets as 'allies.'

It's important to remember that virtually every time we forcibly confronted the Soviets during the Cold War, they retreated. They knew that their regime would never survive open war with the US.( and as a side issue, Putin knows the same thing today).

That said, I give Truman credit for his decision to use the atom bomb, for the Marshall Plan and for being that rarity, an honest man in politics.

Like I said, a decidedly mixed bag.