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View Full Version : Bush's Thousand Days - Arthur Schlesigner's View


classicman2
04-24-06, 09:04 AM
The Washington Post

By Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

The Hundred Days is indelibly associated with Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the Thousand Days with John F. Kennedy. But as of this week, a thousand days remain of President Bush's last term -- days filled with ominous preparations for and dark rumors of a preventive war against Iran.

The issue of preventive war as a presidential prerogative is hardly new. In February 1848 Rep. Abraham Lincoln explained his opposition to the Mexican War: "Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose -- and you allow him to make war at pleasure [emphasis added]. . . . If, today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British invading us'; but he will say to you, 'Be silent; I see it, if you don't.' "

This is precisely how George W. Bush sees his presidential prerogative: Be silent; I see it, if you don't . However, both Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, veterans of the First World War, explicitly ruled out preventive war against Joseph Stalin's attempt to dominate Europe. And in the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, President Kennedy, himself a hero of the Second World War, rejected the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a preventive strike against the Soviet Union in Cuba.

It was lucky that JFK was determined to get the missiles out peacefully, because only decades later did we discover that the Soviet forces in Cuba had tactical nuclear weapons and orders to use them to repel a U.S. invasion. This would have meant a nuclear exchange. Instead, JFK used his own thousand days to give the American University speech, a powerful plea to Americans as well as to Russians to reexamine "our own attitude -- as individuals and as a nation -- for our attitude is as essential as theirs." This was followed by the limited test ban treaty. It was compatible with the George Kennan formula -- containment plus deterrence -- that worked effectively to avoid a nuclear clash.

The Cuban missile crisis was not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. It was the most dangerous moment in all human history. Never before had two contending powers possessed between them the technical capacity to destroy the planet. Had there been exponents of preventive war in the White House, there probably would have been nuclear war. It is certain that nuclear weapons will be used again. Henry Adams, the most brilliant of American historians, wrote during our Civil War, "Some day science shall have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race shall commit suicide by blowing up the world."

But our Cold War presidents kept to the Kennan formula of containment plus deterrence, and we won the Cold War without escalating it into a nuclear war. Enter George W. Bush as the great exponent of preventive war. In 2003, owing to the collapse of the Democratic opposition, Bush shifted the base of American foreign policy from containment-deterrence to presidential preventive war: Be silent; I see it, if you don't. Observers describe Bush as "messianic" in his conviction that he is fulfilling the divine purpose. But, as Lincoln observed in his second inaugural address, "The Almighty has His own purposes."

There stretch ahead for Bush a thousand days of his own. He might use them to start the third Bush war: the Afghan war (justified), the Iraq war (based on fantasy, deception and self-deception), the Iran war (also fantasy, deception and self-deception). There is no more dangerous thing for a democracy than a foreign policy based on presidential preventive war.

Maybe President Bush, who seems a humane man, might be moved by daily sorrows of death and destruction to forgo solo preventive war and return to cooperation with other countries in the interest of collective security. Abraham Lincoln would rejoice.

The writer, a historian, served as an adviser to President John F. Kennedy.
___________________

Permit me to say that I'm not an admirer of Arthur Schlesinger. He's one of the chief architects of the 'Camelot Myth', and has continued to perpetuate that myth throughout the years. But he can't be wrong all the time. ;)

wendersfan
04-24-06, 09:23 AM
The Cuban missile crisis was not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. It was the most dangerous moment in all human history. I think the good professor is once again overstating things, mainly to make President Kennedy seem like a more impressive historical figure than he really was.

kcbrett5
04-26-06, 11:05 AM
I think the good professor is once again overstating things, mainly to make President Kennedy seem like a more impressive historical figure than he really was.

Talk about missing the point. SAT prep courses teach reading comprehension. One of the goals is to get the main message out of a passage. I think for a few hundred dollars anybody could enroll in these classes.

Preventative war is the most dangerous policy imaginable. It further isolates America from the rest of the world and only encourages more countries to seek nuclear weapons. Think about it, if Iraq had nuclear weapons we would have been far less likely to invade. Its only because we knew they didn't have weapons that we rushed in. Look at the Pakistani scientists who are selling nuclear secrets to the world. Any country can get the technology if they really want it. Threatening to invade them only makes it more imperative that they have a nuclear deterrent. Notice there is no talk to invade North Korea now that they are test firing missiles and claiming to already have nukes.

wendersfan
04-26-06, 11:30 AM
Talk about missing the point. SAT prep courses teach reading comprehension. I was in the 99th percentile on both the math and reading sections of the SAT. ;)

You aren't a regular poster in Politics, so you might not be aware that we often post responses to articles that are only vaguelly related to the article's main thesis.

VinVega
04-26-06, 12:12 PM
Talk about missing the point. SAT prep courses teach reading comprehension. One of the goals is to get the main message out of a passage. I think for a few hundred dollars anybody could enroll in these classes.
kcbrett5, please direct your posts at ideas, concepts and arguments and not at posters or their intelligence.

Josh-da-man
04-26-06, 12:24 PM
Iraq has turned into such a fiasco that Bush probably won't be able to drum up public (or political) support for any more foolhardy military adventures no matter how hard Fox News tries to sell them.

Nutter
04-26-06, 07:51 PM
Look at the Pakistani scientists who are selling nuclear secrets to the world. Any country can get the technology if they really want it. Threatening to invade them only makes it more imperative that they have a nuclear deterrent. Notice there is no talk to invade North Korea now that they are test firing missiles and claiming to already have nukes.

Interestingly enough, Pakistan is being run by a military dictator who took power in a coup d'état in 1999. Musharraf's presidency is about as legitimate at Saddam Hussiin's was, only Musharraf never managed to fake a decent election. (He tried once, failed, and then just rail-roaded everyone who'd made him call it and retroactively legalized the whole affair.) So why is the U.S. buddy-buddy with Pakistan? Why isn't G.W. paranoid about such a huge country (sixth largest by population in the world) run by a military dictator with access to nukes? Musharraf was smart enough to play nice after 9/11, and as a result Bush has all but legitimized his coup for him.

Quite frankly, it doesn't matter if any country in the world can get nukes from Pakistan. Pakistan is about as bad as countries come! So why isn't Musharraf portrayed in the U.S. media as another Saddam Hussein with a country 6 times larger than Iraq, an actual military, and nukes? Musharraf may be playing nice now, but Hussein was buddy-buddy with the U.S. once too.

VinVega
04-26-06, 10:02 PM
Interestingly enough, Pakistan is being run by a military dictator who took power in a coup d'état in 1999. Musharraf's presidency is about as legitimate at Saddam Hussiin's was, only Musharraf never managed to fake a decent election. (He tried once, failed, and then just rail-roaded everyone who'd made him call it and retroactively legalized the whole affair.) So why is the U.S. buddy-buddy with Pakistan? Why isn't G.W. paranoid about such a huge country (sixth largest by population in the world) run by a military dictator with access to nukes? Musharraf was smart enough to play nice after 9/11, and as a result Bush has all but legitimized his coup for him.

Quite frankly, it doesn't matter if any country in the world can get nukes from Pakistan. Pakistan is about as bad as countries come! So why isn't Musharraf portrayed in the U.S. media as another Saddam Hussein with a country 6 times larger than Iraq, an actual military, and nukes? Musharraf may be playing nice now, but Hussein was buddy-buddy with the U.S. once too.
You know how the Bush admin thinks it's putting the squeeze on Iran by having friendly governments on either Iranian border (Afghanistan and Iraq)? Imagine how hard it would be for the US in Afghanistan if we had a hostile Iran on one end and a hostile Pakistan on the other end. Not a fun situation at all. I'd also like to avoid a Muslim country with nukes as our enemy. Pakistan has also helped a bit with arresting some al-Qaida terrorists. There's no need to get hostile with them now or in the near future.

Nutter
04-27-06, 01:14 AM
You know how the Bush admin thinks it's putting the squeeze on Iran by having friendly governments on either Iranian border (Afghanistan and Iraq)? Imagine how hard it would be for the US in Afghanistan if we had a hostile Iran on one end and a hostile Pakistan on the other end. Not a fun situation at all. I'd also like to avoid a Muslim country with nukes as our enemy. Pakistan has also helped a bit with arresting some al-Qaida terrorists. There's no need to get hostile with them now or in the near future.

Oh, I agree that it would certainly be inconvenient. I'm just pointing out that, with an ally like Musharraf, Bush's proud protestations that the U.S. is fighting for freedom, democracy and safety from the threat of dictators with WMD's appears less than credible to most of the world.

VinVega
04-27-06, 08:42 AM
We do a lot of hypocritical things in the foreign affairs dept. You have to make choices a lot of times from the lesser of 2 evils perspective.

chess
04-27-06, 10:00 AM
I think the good professor is once again overstating things, mainly to make President Kennedy seem like a more impressive historical figure than he really was.

Despite Kennedy's short tenure, he was most certainly an impressive historical figure as evidenced by the fact that nearly everybody was upset with him. In this case, Kennedy was being lobbied hard to strike and cooler heads (namely his) fortunately prevailed.

Of course, this is dependent on agreement with the Professor's assessment that the Cuban missile crisis was the most dangerous moment in human history...and I certainly agree.

Th0r S1mpson
04-27-06, 10:09 AM
We do a lot of hypocritical things in the foreign affairs dept. You have to make choices a lot of times from the lesser of 2 evils perspective.
If we didn't, we'd be in a lot more wars. I think that's the point of this whole discussion. Our relationships with certain countries often prevent instability in places, either involving our allies or national interests (yes, even oil).

Then we have something like Iraq, where the score of the aftermath was vastly underestimated. If it was quick, it could have been seen as "preventative." As it stands, it is certainly on the verge of inflaming something larger. But if it does settle, it will be a deterrent not only for other nations but for ourselves. At the present time, with the hostile climate towards the policy, it should be relieving any fears that Iran might have about a US invasion... but that apparently is not the case. They just see us that much closer.

wendersfan
04-27-06, 10:16 AM
Despite Kennedy's short tenure, he was most certainly an impressive historical figure as evidenced by the fact that nearly everybody was upset with him. In this case, Kennedy was being lobbied hard to strike and cooler heads (namely his) fortunately prevailed.

Of course, this is dependent on agreement with the Professor's assessment that the Cuban missile crisis was the most dangerous moment in human history...and I certainly agree.I think one of the primary reasons President Kennedy strikes such an impressive figure historically is because he was blessed with two very eloquent biographers, Schlesinger and Sorensen. With respect to his behavior during the missile crisis, there is a countervailing argument that (1) there never would have been a crisis to begin with had Khrushchev not had so a low opinion of Kennedy after their first summit - Khrushchev considered Kennedy to be a lightweight who could be easily pushed around, and (b) Kennedy botched the blockade.

DVD Polizei
04-27-06, 10:21 AM
Thor,

The only way Iraq will "settle" is years down the road when the media and US government pay less attention to it. We've had violence in Iraq before, but the media and US government never paid attention to it. Usually, it was special interest groups who reported about incidents and smuggled people and info from there. The same is true with Iran. Did Iran just suddenly want to acquire nuclear weapons? Fuck no. They've been on a mission to acquire them before and since we invaded Iraq. But Bush and his amazing intelligence decided to leave them alone and go for a country that was the last on any list of terrorist threats.

Now, Iran is suddenly in the spotlight.

I mean really. It's getting embarassing here.

Th0r S1mpson
04-27-06, 10:36 AM
Thor,

The only way Iraq will "settle" is years down the road when the media and US government pay less attention to it.
By settling, I mean with America's direct involvement. When they have their own government and we have far fewer troops there. I don't believe that is years down the road.

I think within a year it will be "settled" to a point that an attack on another country is more feasable than the current moment.

Yes, there will still be conflict in Iraq. There will be terrorism there...well, forever most likely. And yes we will maintain some presence there to ensure our own interests (and "support" as needed of course). At least until the Iraqis kick us out.

classicman2
04-27-06, 11:19 AM
I think one of the primary reasons President Kennedy strikes such an impressive figure historically is because he was blessed with two very eloquent biographers, Schlesinger and Sorensen. With respect to his behavior during the missile crisis, there is a countervailing argument that (1) there never would have been a crisis to begin with had Khrushchev not had so a low opinion of Kennedy after their first summit - Khrushchev considered Kennedy to be a lightweight who could be easily pushed around, and (b) Kennedy botched the blockade.

The primary reason Kennedy is an impressive historical figure is because of the Camelot myth - and his assassination.

In addition, the public liked his wife & children.

slop101
04-27-06, 11:24 AM
After the Iraq cluster-fuck, I doubt Bush and his goons would want to step into another quagmire. But in order for them to learn from their mistakes, it would require them to acknwoledge that they even made one in the first place....

darkessenz
04-27-06, 09:15 PM
Of course, you assume that the heads of state in Iran,Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudia Arabia share the same suicidal nihilism of the poor masses who strap on bomb vests. This simply isn't true. They may push their poor and desperate men to do suicide attacks, but then any group of elites does that when they send the army to war.

Many nations have been called blood-thirsty, suicidal, ruthless, caring none for their morals or lives etc. This type of rhetoric always emerges from the side who wishes to declare war with impunity on the target. You can bet the soviet union was painted as such by some...

DVD Polizei
04-27-06, 11:07 PM
Saudi Arabia will have to chose between being friends with the US, or being a cohesive country--it's barely surviving as one as is and I'm surprised the US media hasn't reported about it.

As the US intrudes into more Muslim countries, SA will become forced into a corner, and eventually, they will have to choose sides.

What will the signs be? Well, guess what. Just imagine a Bush-like administration telling the US, Saudi Arabia is connected to terrorism...