George Bush practiced a little self-censorship the other day. In what appears to have been an attempt to draw parallels between the public-approved invasion of Normandy 60 years ago and the unwise decision to occupy Iraq, he quoted Gen. Eisenhower:
Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. The eyes the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.
Stirring words, but the president happened to drop a phrase from the middle, that phrase being: “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.”
Apparently the president didn’t wish to offend those sensitive individuals who are currently attempting to murder Americans around the world. But there is some truth to the notion that the current conflict in Iraq is no crusade. After all, the Crusade was a nominally Christian endeavor to take back Christian lands with the blessing of the pope, whereas the current occupation of Iraq is a secular effort to pacify an Islamic land sans papal approval.
One of the biggest myths in American politics is that George W. Bush is a courageous leader. He isn’t. Indeed, he is remarkably timid for a president who until recently enjoyed some of the highest approval ratings of all time. Even when compared to Bill Clinton, not exactly a paragon of political courage, George Bush falls short.
Consider how Clinton attempted radical restructurings of the American health system and the American military. These initiatives would have been calamitous, to be sure, but they were hardly timid. Furthermore, Clinton sparred openly with the Republican majority in Congress even prior to his impeachment.
George Bush, on the other hand, has somehow managed to kowtow before the minority party, while at the same time producing only a single initiative of note. Unlike Clinton, he succeeded, unfortunately – the creation of a new federal entitlement is not exactly the revolutionary rollback of federal power for which conservatives were hoping. George Bush has been a go-along-to-get-along president from the start. While it is disheartening to see he wages war in like manner, it is hardly surprising.
It is fascinating to see how previously staunch supporters of the administration are finally beginning to come around to this view of the president, rosy-glassed observers such as Peggy Noonan notwithstanding. If the president hopes to win re-election on his performance as commander in chief, he is doomed to disappointment, although I expect the anti-charisma of John Kerry will save him from himself.
Still, the president is either lying or hopelessly and utterly wrong in saying, as he did on May 24:
Our terrorist enemies have a vision that guides and explains all of their varied acts of murder. They seek to impose Taliban-like rule, country by country, across the greater Middle East. They seek the total control of every person, and mind, and soul; a harsh society in which women are voiceless and brutalized … None of this is the expression of a religion.
What idiocy! All of it is an expression of a religion. The president cannot possibly subscribe to the notion that the Taliban was nothing but a philosophical discussion group. Indeed, the jihad itself has become a religion, which is why most of its leaders are clerics, why its propaganda is couched in apocalyptic religious terminology and why all attempts at negotiation and reasonable accommodation are doomed to failure.
Ironically, it is those who most fervently cling to the myth of the bold George Bush who argue that the president has no choice but to dissemble, to declare that France and Saudi Arabia are our friends, that the Iraqi people want American troops to occupy their country and that we can co-exist peacefully with the religion of peace. In doing so, of course, they sabotage their own position, as it is speaking the truth without fear of consequence that is the mark of courage, it is the willingness to confront popular opinion that is the stamp of bold leadership.
To suggest that the successful occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan could ever bring peace is tantamount to believing that the reclamation of France and Holland would suffice to bring down the Third Reich. George Bush has neither the courage to fight the global jihad nor to admit that the nation is unready to fight it at this time. Either option is valid, but instead, he follows in the disastrous Clintonian tradition of doing as little as possible, hoping the problem will somehow resolve itself in time.