Regrets, he's had too few . . .
But I guess George Bush has done things his way for eight years.
Here's as remarkable a lead as you're ever likely to encounter at the closing of a U.S. presidency: "Nearing the bitter end of eight ruinous years in office, President Bush still won't acknowledge a single substantive thing he did wrong. Asked if he had any regrets in a CNN interview yesterday, Bush copped to a few public-relations gaffes many years ago. His tone, however, was anything but apologetic. In fact, he seemed quite pleased with himself."
That's the opening of a piece by The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin, who marvels at the president's impenetrable resistance to self-reflection or doubt even after a series of decisions which have essentially brought this nation to its economic and strategic knees. Wow. Self-confidence is a necessary quality in a leader, but management coursebooks of the future will no doubt devote many chapters to an exploration of the many perils of a megalomanic inability to acknowledge error exemplified by the Bush administration.
Reflecting on the inglorious end to the Bush the Younger era, I find myself thinking that the years following September 11 could not have been better scripted (a notion I steal from Scott Alexander, see below) for the cause of radical Islamic expansionism then if they had been written by bin Laden himself. In his wildest dreams he could not have hoped for a better outcome to his murderous spree on September 11.
The U.S. is engaged in two major conflicts, draining our human and fiscal resources and severely limiting our strategic options in the world even as every bombed-out wedding party generates greater enmity in the Arab and Islamic world and diminishes our standing among friends and allies. The nation's reputation as the international cornerstone of the rule of law is in tatters; our national debt and budget deficits are soaring; our economy is perhaps fatally staggered; we have removed his greatest secular foe in the region ourselves and created a vast theater for recrutiment and training; and Osama Bin Laden, despite all, STILL remains on the loose to pursue his murderous, futile dream of a restored regional, perhaps global, caliphate.
And the only regrets my president has revolve around a few comments he feels were not as "artful" as they could have been. Good grief. At least he cannot be challenged on consistency.
From "Don't know much about Islam," a 2004 U.S. Catholic interview with the CTU's Scott Alexander:
What do you see as the main challenge that Al Qaeda and some of these other groups pose?
The main challenge is that if extremism on one side of a dispute is not met by extremism on the other side, it doesn't get as far. Have you ever noticed how extremists on both sides of a conflict are each other's best friends?
Ariel Sharon and the leaders of Hamas support each other constantly because Sharon acts and Hamas says, "See, I told you so, this is why we have to do it this way." Hamas acts and Sharon says, "See, I told you so." It has continually destabilized efforts by the mainstream. So I think the greatest danger that Al Qaeda presents is one that we're experiencing already, and that is that certain elements, particularly within the Christian evangelical right, have come up to meet the challenge of their counterparts.
I believe, and this is very unpopular, that metaphorically in those planes that hit the towers September 11 was more than just a lot of fuel that would incinerate the lives and hopes of thousands of people and their loved ones. There was also a script for how to set the whole world ablaze, addressed to George W. Bush and written by Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden wants all the Muslims in the world to become convinced that the West is inherently evil and that it's necessary to fight against all Western influence, including killing Christians and Jews wherever they find them. In this process, he maps out a very distinct role for Bush to play. Bush says, "Thank you," rehearses his lines, and delivers them marvelously.
Even using the word crusade.
Exactly. Many realists would say that the war in Afghanistan following September
11 was largely justified by the support not only from citizens in the U.S., but from other countries as well.
But I can't help but wonder what would have happened if the president of the United States had come to the American people on September 12 and said, "This horrible thing happened to us, we are wounded, we need to bond together. We need to punish the people responsible, but I'm not going to do it in the way our enemies want us to. They want us to become a neoimperialist power; they want us to prove to the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world that we are exactly what Osama bin Laden thinks we are. But we're not going to do that." I think Osama would have been tearing his hair out.