Monday, Apr. 24, 2003
The Power of One
By MICHAEL KINSLEY
The "great man" theory of history has been out of fashion for decades. Historians trying to explain the course of human events point to geography or climate or technology. They explore the everyday life of ordinary people and the tides of change that sweep through whole populations. When they write about individual historical actors, the emphasis tends to be on psychology. Kings and Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers may affect events at the margins, but the notion that history happens because someone decided it should happen is regarded as unenlightening if not simply wrong.
About Gulf War II and its consequences (whatever they may be), though, the "great man" theory is correct, and the great man is President George W. Bush. Great in this context does not necessarily mean good or wise. It does usually suggest a certain largeness of character or presence on the stage, which Bush does not possess. Whatever gods gave him this role were casting against type. But the role is his. This was George W. Bush's war. It was the result of one man's deliberate, sudden and unforced decision. Yes, Saddam Hussein deserves the ultimate moral blame, but Bush pushed the button.
Bush's decision to make war on Iraq may have been visionary and courageous or reckless and tragic or anything in between, but one thing it wasn't was urgently necessary. For Bush, this war was optional. Events did not impose it on him. Few public voices were egging him on. He hadn't made an issue of the need for "regime change" during the presidential campaign or made it a priority in the early months of his Administration. If he had completely ignored Iraq through the 2004 election, the price would have been a few disappointed Administration hawks and one or two grumpy op-eds. But something or someone put this bee in his bonnet, and from a standing start, history took off. Thousands died, millions were freed from tyranny (we hope), billions were spent, a region was shaken to its core, alliances ruptured, and the entire world watched it all on TV.
Compare America's other wars of the past 60 years. All of them had, if not inevitability, at least a bit of propulsion from forces larger than one man's desire. Gulf War I was provoked by an actual event: Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. George the Elder didn't have to make war, but he had to do something. Vietnam, famously, was never an explicit decision. Even the parody war in Grenada had a few captive American medical students to force its way onto the agenda. Some people believe that Franklin Roosevelt personally, deliberately and even dishonestly maneuvered a reluctant America into World War II. But World War II was history boiling over and impossible to avoid one way or another.
Why did Bush want this war? His ostensible reasons were unconvincing. Whatever we may find now in the rubble of Baghdad, he never offered any good evidence of a close link between Iraq and al-Qaeda or of weapons of mass destruction that could threaten the U.S. His desire to liberate a nation from tyranny undoubtedly was sincere, but there are other tyrants in the world. Why this one? On the other hand, the ulterior motives attributed to Bush by critics are even more implausible. He didn't start a war to serve his re-election campaign or avenge his father or enrich his oil buddies or help Israel. The mystery of Bush's true motives adds to the impression of a wizard arbitrarily waving his wand over history.
War on Iraq was optional for George W. Bush in another sense too. He could have easily chosen not to have it, in which case it wouldn't have happened, but when he decided to have it, that was it: we had it. The President's ability to decide when and where to use America's military power is now absolute. Congress cannot stop him. That's not what the Constitution says, and it's not what the War Powers Act says, but that's how it works in practice. The U.N. cannot stop him. That's not what the U.N. Charter says, but who cares? And who cares what America's allies think either?
Even more amazing than the President's pragmatic power over military resources is his apparent spiritual power over so many minds. Bush is not the only one who decided rather suddenly that disempowering Saddam had to be the world's top priority. When Bush decided this, so did almost every congressional Republican, conservative TV pundit and British Prime Minister. In polls, a large majority of Americans agreed with Bush that Saddam was a terrible threat and had to go, even though there had been no popular passion for this idea before Bush brought it up. You could call this many things, but one of them is leadership. If real leadership means leading people where they don't want to go, George W. Bush has shown himself to be a real leader. And he now owns a bit of history to prove it.
the above article is real : www.time.com
'Bush's body language speaks volumes'
Dr. Mohammad T. Al-Rasheed, Arab News
Watching George W. Bush deliver his speeches is becoming more alarming as his diction and body language become ever so transparently arrogant. Only people who are oblivious to the Other as a living concept are capable of such behavior. The President issues statements that polarize and divide: "You are either with us or with them" is the most obvious. There are plenty of such declarations that an elected official is not supposed to contemplate, let alone utter. This diction is the linguistic realm of the dictator who has to answer to no one. When it comes to body language, Bush speaks volumes. The fixed stare in his eyes is boyish, as he declares something as Biblical as "the day of reckoning is near." He awaits the applause from the "safe" crowds of servicemen and women as a little child awaits the teacher's commendations. The posture seems to say, "How did I do in this recitation of my Sunday school homework?" Not bad, Mr. President. But then, we are not in a Sunday school. The forced spring in his step and his quasi-military salute to the Marine by the helicopter tell us that the man is getting too confident in his performance. This sort of confidence is usually of the strutting type, which means it comes from the inability to step back and look at one's actions.
Some people might think this is simply confidence and the ability to lead without hesitation. But a leader who does not reflect is a leader who falls on his face. That is a historical fact. The force and weight of the position should make one rethink before uttering such statements. If we take this war as an example, the President waxed Biblical like the prophets of the Old Testament before the war started. While the prophets could call on divine inspiration, the President had only Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, and Perle to fall on. Hardly divine anything. Had this sort of behavior been evident after total victory, one might pass it as immodesty. But when you get it before any engagement or even a bullet fired, it is nothing but arrogance.
When the American administration thought it might need Spain as another vote in the UN, Spanish Prime Minister Aznar was invited to the Azores for talks he had nothing to add to. When the war was being decided, Bush and Blair met at Camp David alone. The Spanish opposition took the Prime Minister to task, shredded him for the arrogant and ungrateful behavior of his supposed allies, and taunted him as no more than a fool for having been manipulated. Is this the way to reward a "faithful" ally?
Arrogance is infectious. Rumsfeld was telling the world, in his own inimitable way, that finding piles of chemical suits belonging to Iraqi soldiers was proof positive they have chemical weapons and intend to use them. I have never heard reasoning so absurd. He said that the Iraqis "knew we would not use chemical weapons." Is that so, Mr Secretary? The fact is that the Secretary is on record saying he favors the use of non-lethal chemical agents that temporarily incapacitate. It is illegal to use such chemicals as provided in the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to which the United States and 139 other countries are signatories.
Surely the Iraqis heard him and took measures to protect themselves. Now I don't know whether the Iraqis have these weapons or not, but I sure know when someone is taking the world for a ride. That complete disrespect for human intelligence is alarming. Do these people think they can get away with such declarations? Do they really believe that such one-sided argumentation is valid? The voices of reason and dissent have been quashed in America. There is no one who can come out and declare for the side of logic and reason. The fury of Church, Network, and the rabid columnists is unleashed to silence such voices.
Sen. Daschle suggested that Bush's diplomatic failure made war inevitable. He was attacked as if he were a refusenik during the Soviet era. Senator Kerry, a man who fought for his country and was decorated for it, urgently calls to vote this president out of office only to find himself fighting a war of survival as a politician. Sen. Kennedy, an elder statesman whose American lineage needs no proof, was clear that Bush did not make a convincing case for a war in Iraq. Al Gore, who actually won the popular vote in 2000, did not see any reason to go to war to achieve the objectives of the UN resolutions. We all know where President Carter, who perhaps is the most deserving of the Noble Prize winners this past century, stands.
These people and many more are neither Arab nor anti-American. They are the leaders (chosen and elected) of the United States. They have been silenced, sidetracked, and even accused of being un-American. The one-dimensional clique that rules the White House these days is not only killing our children in Iraq but also polarizing America in a dangerous precedent that might set that country on a track of belligerence, conquest, and lethal unilateralism.
This Administration has played a dangerous game of appealing to the base instincts of the masses. Fear of the other has been utilized in way that is changing America and the world. While American arms are being used to kill Iraqis, the real danger is lurking in a cave somewhere. Bin Laden is safe and enjoying the fiasco. He is the ultimate winner in this dangerous game. Instead of concentrating the world's efforts to get rid of him, President Bush has been led to fulfill the long-standing agenda of people like Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Perle. If only the President left his Bible for a little while on the desk and read Spinoza and Rousseau instead; he might ultimately find out how he is being led down a dark crevice. He might also tread lightly on the face of this earth, salute the marine like Eisenhower (a real soldier) did, and encompass the broad spectrum of humanity within his vision. All three religions would tell the President that arrogance is vile in the eyes of the Lord. Besides, the most visible sign of Saddam's vileness is his swagger, as he saunters from one place to another. Reprinted from Arab News: