Prospect is leading its current issue with an article by Edward Luttwak in which, among other things, he argues that the Bush presidency will be seen as something very much akin to that of Truman–derided and worried over during its time but soon enshrined as one of the periods of great American statesmanship. This sentence from the article just about sums it up:
So the bien-pensant commentators have got the two big questions about the US’s place in the world completely back to front—they believe that Bush has failed in the very field where he has been most successful, and that China adds to American problems when the opposite is true.
The subject of Bush’s legacy will get more and more play as his presidency draws to a close, and the foregone conclusion that was his administration has proven itself remarkably resilient (cf. how well things are going in Iraq right now for the American occupation).
As with most contrarian writers, there are some nuggets of wisdom to derive, as well as some idiotic trifles to deride. I’m not sure whether Bush will ever be lauded for his work, if only because he presided (toss whether or not he’s actually responsible for) the worst recession of the past half-century.
This all said, the man has a point. What (we) liberals derided as black-and-white moral equivocations may very well prove to be the thing that was necessary to squelch Islamic extremism in the middle east. Taking as true his suggestion that the Saudis were financing a worldwide network of extremism before September 11th, we have indeed seen significant progress. By forcing Saudi Arabia to shut down all of its schools and revert to a more moderated tone of Islamic rhetoric, many potential disasters were surely averted.
I think the biggest assumption that is made (and has yet to be borne out) is whether or not Bush’s strategy with regard to Pakistan was sound. By supporting Musharraf, Bush may have bought some short-term results in the war on terror. However, by the time the full extent of the Taliban’s forced exodus from Afghanistan was played out, any results from Musharraf’s violent response to the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan were rendered useless.
Time will tell, I guess. I think the most important development in my thoughts towards the war on terrorism has been an increased willingness to withold judgment on American actions. I don’t think the full implications of our actions abroad will bear results until at least a few years from now, and any arguments both for and against US foreign policy for the past 8 years will not carry weight until the results are revealed for all to see.