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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bush the Strategerist

With Congress on the cusp of a major fight over Iraq policy, in which an important data point will be whether or not any action short of a funding cutoff can convince the Bush administration to change course, there appears today in Slate an excerpt from a book by Robert Draper based on a series of recent interviews with the Decider himself. Today’s piece features an interview just after the 2006 elections.
It’s a chilling interview, frankly. We’ve all known for years that George W. Bush is unreflective, stubborn, and unwilling to admit mistakes. But what comes across in the exchange with Draper is something far more dangerous; a conviction that policy failures and repudiation by the public somehow demonstrate Bush’s Higher Wisdom:

His hot dog arrived. Bush ate rapidly, with a sort of voracious disinterest. He was a man who required comfort and routine. Food, for him, was fuel and familiarity. It was not a thing to reflect on.
“The job of the president,” he continued, through an ample wad of bread and sausage, “is to think strategically so that you can accomplish big objectives. As opposed to playing mini-ball. You can’t play mini-ball with the influence we have and expect there to be peace. You’ve gotta think, think BIG.

The thought of “thinking big” led Bush directly into a discussion not of Iraq, but of Iran:

“The Iranian issue,” he said as bread crumbs tumbled out of his mouth and onto his chin, “is the strategic threat right now facing a generation of Americans, because Iran is promoting an extreme form of religion that is competing with another extreme form of religion. Iran’s a destabilizing force. And instability in that part of the world has deeply adverse consequences, like energy falling in the hands of extremist people that would use it to blackmail the West. And to couple all of that with a nuclear weapon, then you’ve got a dangerous situation. … That’s what I mean by strategic thought.

It certainly sounds like Bush internalized the now-forgotten (if not ridiculed) assessment of him by the Right just after the initial invasion of Iraq as some sort of World-Historical Figure whose primary responsibility is to ignore adversity and controversy and do what he thinks best in a “big” way. And while I’m a bit skeptical of the talk around the blogosphere that the administration is seriously planning military action on Iran, it does bear noting that such an audacious move would comport well with the self-image he conveys in this interview.

3 comments on “Bush the Strategerist

  1. Cugel on

    How can anyone who’s paying attention doubt that Bush fully intends to attack Iran?
    What’s the downside for him? That it’ll be a disaster of epic proportions and that the military is opposed?
    The same book you quote states that when the retired generals came out against Rumsfeld, Bush’s advisors who wanted Rumsfeld removed were afraid that would “put the President’s back up” and he’d reverse course on dumping Rumsfeld.
    So, if the entire military is against Rumsfeld, then Bush wants to keep him just to show everybody “who’s boss.”
    Bush then revealed that he wouldn’t let the “military guys” tell the “civilian guys” (ready Cheney and Bush) what to do.
    Why on earth would anybody doubt he means business about Iran? If he attacks Iran, then all talk about whether it’s a good idea to get out of Iraq will be moot, since we’ll be in a total war.
    Or as Bush himself put it in conversation with friends from Texas, reported in the Dallas newspapers: “we’ll fix it so that [his successor] won’t be able to abandon America’s destiny” in Iraq.
    That’s his plan! It’s been his plan since 2001. First Iraq, which was supposed to be the easy part. Then Syria. In 2003 when they thought the Iraq war was about over, suddenly there were all these braying articles all across the country talking about the “threat from Syria” and “warning Syria” of serious consequences, etc.
    They wanted to invade Syria next, then Iran. Well the failure of Iraq made invading Syria impossible, but Iran is still on the agenda. Bush will bomb Iran by this spring.
    What’s to stop him? The Democrats who just voted 97-0 for a resolution threatening Iran?

  2. john patton on

    On decisions regarding the feasibility of specific military actions, Bush’s opinion is secondary – he is Otis to Cheney’s Lex Luthor.
    The pentagon, servile as it has been, will still at this point veto attacks using ground forces. This leaves, however, “targeted and surgical” air strikes – which are neither and which have an impressive record of failure(vietnam, lebanon) in attacking well prepared targets. Nonetheless, as Cheney senses the end of his reign, his desire to leave a legacy of American military assertiveness in the middle east could easily lead him to insist on a brief campaign of straffing and bombing of Iranian nuclear targets.
    Watch for reports of fleet movements in the Persian Gulf and “off the record” military assertions that a few “high value” targets have suddenly been discovered.

  3. NiceFlyer on

    There is a danger being skeptical of the talk on the blogosphere about an attack upon Iran.
    Who would have thought that Bush would ignore the U.N., invade Iraq and totally and completely blow the post invasion occupation?
    Bush is, in my humble opinion, a madman likely to do anything.


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