February 22, 2005

Rush for the Exits

Martin Kettle in the Guardian joins the retreat of many Iraq war critics from their line that it was a fiasco:

"Much of this is summed up in the current transitional fluidity over the politics of Iraq. The war was a reckless, provocative, dangerous, lawless piece of unilateral arrogance. But it has nevertheless brought forth a desirable outcome which would not have been achieved at all, or so quickly, by the means that the critics advocated, right though they were in most respects."

In other words, it worked, the opponents' strategy wouldn't have worked, but they, and not Bush, were still right. Setting aside the internal contradictions of the concession, the author is only the latest in a line of liberals and leftists who are beginning to see that there may be another side to the war. Maybe, just maybe, even though Bush is a stupid cowboy manipulated by sinister hooknosed neoconservatives, getting rid of Saddam was a good thing, the insurgency is failing, and the election was a harbinger of some kind of democracy.

Now, apparently, the bar is being raised. Here's Kettle's new question about Bush:

It is whether the real Bush now has the will to give the rebuilding process the attention it requires. Is he, as John Lewis Gaddis challenges him in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, prepared to shift from the shock and awe of his first term to "the reassurance - and the attention to detail - that is necessary to sustain any new [international] system". Is he able, as Gaddis puts it, to be a Bismarck?

In which case the really important question is not why Bush has come to Europe. It is when he will be coming again, and when he will go to the Middle East. A huge historical figure? That is what we are about to discover.

From dumb cowboy to potential Bismarck? Time alone will tell, but that's pretty far to come in the eyes of the world's Guardians, in just four years.

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