Sunday, July 23, 2006

Bush "thinks he is playing in a longer-term game than the tacticians"

In terms of scary, that isn't quite up there with, say, "bin Laden obtains tactical nuclear weapons," but it's still well up there. Our President may not be clinically insane, but he's at such a remove from reality that apparently he's thinking like a crazy man.

I mean, how exactly is that long-term thinking of his doing, so far, now that we've got over five years' worth of track record to judge it by?

Iraq: in the toilet. Civil war killing people faster than Saddam used to; the people you'd want to build a country around are all headed for the border; the country's now a training ground for terrorists. Even Zarqawi's death didn't slow the collapse.

Afghanistan: slipping away. Taliban resurgent in the south, warlords running things everywhere else, Karzai doesn't even control Kabul, great opium crop. And this is the country that actually wanted our help.

North Korea: still making nukes out of plutonium, just like it wasn't when Clinton was President. Good thing its long-range missile was a dud.

Iran: by destabilizing Iraq, we made Iran the big guy on the block. And by having our army stuck in Iraq, we limited our options with respect to Iran.

Islamic terrorism: Osama bin Laden's still on the loose. Al-Qaeda's methodology is being widely copied by other groups, as the residents of Bombay were recently reminded. And terrorists get to practice their skills in Iraq.

Pakistan: our 'ally' has shared nuclear technology with Iran and North Korea. It appears to be harboring bin Laden's organization, as well as whatever terrorist group was responsible for the Bombay bombings. (Good thing for the world that India is capable of the restraint that Israel and the U.S. lack, as India and Pakistan both have nukes, and a war between the two could easily go nuclear.)

So Bush is a terrible long-term thinker, by all evidence.

I remember how I was in my pre-teen and early teen years. I was very smart, but severely introverted and disconnected from reality. I'd read Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative, and thought I knew all the answers. If Bush really sees himself as a chess player thinking several steps ahead, as Tony Snow said, then Bush reminds me far too much for comfort of the kid I used to be. And at least I actually was a chessplayer, and could think several moves ahead.

It gets better. Meaning, of course, "worse."

"The president believes that unless you address the root causes of the violence that has afflicted the Middle East, you cannot forge a lasting peace," said White House counselor Dan Bartlett. "He mourns the loss of every life. Yet out of this tragic development, he believes a moment of clarity has arrived."


The president would say: 'You have an opportunity to really grind down Hezbollah. Let's take it, even if there are other serious consequences that will have to be managed.' "

This is where Bush sees himself as playing the long-term game. Here we move from the delusions of grandeur of a person completely cut off from reality's lessons, to the insanity of doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting it to finally work this time.

Bush has a track record of focusing on some person, group of persons, or organization that can be taken out, and once we do so, the problem will be solved: Saddam. The Iraq "deck of cards." Zarqawi. His desire for photos of the al-Qaeda leadership so he could X them out as they were killed.

We know how well all of that worked out. Unfortunately, there's no reason to believe it should work any better here.


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