Tuesday, June 24, 2008


You can read David Brooks's latest column if you like, but here's the gist -- there's really not much more to it than this:

The Bush Paradox

Let's go back and consider how the world looked in the winter of 2006-2007. Iraq was in free fall....

Expert and elite opinion swung behind the Baker-Hamilton report....

In these circumstances, it’s amazing that George Bush decided on the surge. And looking back, one thing is clear: Every personal trait that led Bush to make a hash of the first years of the war led him to make a successful decision when it came to this crucial call [the surge].

... Bush, who made such bad calls early in the war, made a courageous and astute decision in 2006....

Is the surge working better than anything else Bush has tried? Yeah, sure. Is it surprising that Bush stumbled on a course of action that actually didn't make things worse? Not necessarily.

Bush decided on the surge the way he decides on everything -- he wanted (a) something that would piss off people who disagreed with him and (b) someone who would do the hard part for him, i.e., assessing evidence and thinking. For years, he satisfied himself on point (a) by insisting that the original plan (or non-plan) was going swimmingly and that only the liars in the lie-beral media thought we weren't winning; he satisfied point (b), at least in part, by agreeing with Rumsfeld that there were enough troops, because Rumsfeld certainly seemed like a guy who spent all his waking hours assessing evidence and thinking, or at least he made it his life's work to persuade everyone that that was what he did all day.

Then it began dawning on Bush in '06 that his party was in for a thumpin' at the polls. And so Rumsfeld had to go. Now what would piss off Bush's enemies? And who would do Bush's thinking for him?

That's how we got the exaltation of David Petraeus; that's how we got the surge. Bush just so happened to find a screw-you policy advanced by Doctor of Thinkology who wasn't a total fraud. It's as if a guy who actually answers spam e-mails happened to send his Social Security number to someone who really did turn out to be from a legitimate bank that had money for him -- it doesn't validate the principle that this is generally a very, very bad approach.

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