"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
August 24, 2007

Bush The History Professor?

After last weeks little tirade against the current US president I’m almost loathe to write a follow-up. But, it is difficult not to make some comment on the absolute idiocy of Bush’s most recent speech, trying to use both the Vietnam War and WWII as historical “lessons” for what the US should now do in […]

After last weeks little tirade against the current US president I’m almost loathe to write a follow-up. But, it is difficult not to make some comment on the absolute idiocy of Bush’s most recent speech, trying to use both the Vietnam War and WWII as historical “lessons” for what the US should now do in Iraq.

To put it bluntly, if Bush were was such a student of history, then how could he have allowed the litany of policy errors that created the current mess in Iraq to have endlessly flowed from his office?

Bush tried to draw a connection between the sacrifices made to rebuilt Japan and Germany after WWII and the current need to rebuild Iraq. Of course, this is an asinine comparison to make since after WWII both countries had defeated governments, little internal resistance and massive industrial potential. Moreover, the really big difference was the depth of global coalition that existed at the time. The US never built a real alliance, a real coalition behind the Iraq war and never could have.

But the really breathtaking comparision was between Iraq and Vietnam, or more precisely between Iraq and a fantasy, parallel universe Vietnam where the US stayed on and somehow, against all logic, managed to win that war. Whilst Bush is right to point out that the failure in Vietnam did lead to a terrible period in South East Asian history, he is so fundamentally wrong to assume that somehow the US drawing the war out further would have lead to a better outcome. The simple fact, as outlined by David Hendrickson in today’s NYT is that US policy actions there, as in Iraq, precipitated further bloodshed.

“But there are a couple of further points that need weighing. One is that the Khmer Rouge would never have come to power in the absence of the war in Vietnam – this dark force arose out of the circumstances of the war, was in a deep sense created by the war. The same thing has happened in the Middle East today. Foreign occupation of Iraq has created far more terrorists than it has deterred.”

The poor reasoning doesn’t end there. Bush wants to draw a direct connection between the ideology that drove Japan in WWI and that which drives al-Qaeda today,

“There are many differences between the wars we fought in the Far East and the war on terror we‚Äôre fighting today. But one important similarity is at their core they‚Äôre ideological struggles. The militarists of Japan and the communists in Korea and Vietnam were driven by a merciless vision for the proper ordering of humanity. They killed Americans because we stood in the way of their attempt to force their ideology on others.

Today, the names and places have changed, but the fundamental character of the struggle has not changed. Like our enemies in the past, the terrorists who wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places seek to spread a political vision of their own — a harsh plan for life that crushes freedom, tolerance, and dissent.”

No. There are obvious and significant differences between the political “logic” of the Islamist groups operating in Iraq today and the global imperialism that drove WWII Japan. There is a big difference between trying to consume and deconstruct domestic cultures to make them fit a religious plan and trying to conquer countries and enslave them in vassal relationships. It is the kind of distinction that makes it clear why massive military action was decisive in WWII and why it failed in Vietnam and why it has failed in Iraq.

It is really stunning to read the transcript of Bush’s speak and see a Head of State speaking in such simplistic and poorly thought out terms. I can’t help but wonder if a high school student submitted this as an essay in History class, what grade they would get?

[tags] George W. Bush, Iraq, War [/tags]

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Responses
brodie 15 years ago

Fernando – I too was alarmed by Bush’s speech and it’s twisting of history to suit his own political purposes. What is perhaps most alarming is that it was one of those speeches that will to many people sound convincing, but a moment‚Äôs pause and reflection will reveal the vacuous logic of his argument.
Back in February I heard Clare Short MP talk, she when commenting on Tony Blair stated, “what you’ve got to remember is Tony is not widely read and has little idea of history”. I wonder if the same could be said of George W?
I would like to think that we can expect better from Gordon Brown, he did after all read history at Uni, but alas time will tell.

Fernando Gros 15 years ago

Brodie – that really is quite a damming comment made about Blair, especially given that in comparison to Bush and also Australian PM John Howard, old Tony always seemed so considered and informed.

Roy Donin 15 years ago

“not widely read and little idea of history” sounds like a really generous description of Bush.

brodie 15 years ago

Fernando – hey it was Claire Short who made the comment not I, albeit some may consider that Claire has an axe to grind against Mr Blair so would not want to put him in a good light!

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