Monday, September 02, 2002

Lagniappe - I have been following the whole Pappy-Bush vs. Baby-Bush punditry with more than a casual interest. William Safire has recently weighed in on the subject with an op-ed piece in the New York Times. My feeling, which I've expressed numerous times, is that there is some sort of give-and-take going on between Pappy and Baby. I'm not quite sure exactly what this means or how it will ultimately play out, but Safire makes a convincing case that because of the perception of this family rift, Pappy-Bush will need to come out with a public stance at some point - either for or against - in order to put the rumors to rest once and for all and clear the way for an unhidden policy agenda regarding Iraq. But aside from the whole family rift gossip, I've been wondering more acutely about Pappy-Bush's original policy actions with regard to the Gulf War. People have spoken of Pappy-Bush's failure to finish off Saddam in round one as a policy blunder. But I'm not so sure of this. If one speaks of blunder in the sense that it may have contributed to Pappy-Bush's failed reelection campaign, that's something to debate. However, to speak of this blunder as an unintended mistaken decision on the part of the Pappy-Bush war team, as I think most do, is wrong-headed. The more and more that I give some thought to the Gulf War and its immediate aftermath, especially given today's context of the Pappy-Bush team's softness on Baby-Bush's current hardline Iraq position, the more I think that Pappy-Bush knew exactly what he was doing when he let Saddam off the hook at the end of the Gulf War. For some reason, which I can't quite fathom yet, Pappy-Bush seems to have thought that the security of the Middle East (as well as US Security) required (and still requires) the continued existence of Saddam in power. Did Pappy-Bush know something about the Middle East dynamic in a post-Saddam world that gave him the willies? What do we know about a post-Saddam Middle East now? I think it is worth exploring this subject further, and to stop thinking of Pappy-Bush's allowing Saddam to survive as a "blunder" and to think of it more critically and strategically as perhaps a policy with some good reason (if not soundness) to it after all. This is not to say that Saddam needs to stay, but that we stop thinking about his absence from the scene as necessarily a positive end to an all around ugly situation in that part of the world. Even though I'm not a big fan of Pappy-Bush, I do think we need to give Pappy-Bush some credit here. After all, Pappy-Bush was and is by far the more experienced statesman and diplomat of the two. The fact that this "rift" seems to be evolving tells me that Pappy-Bush's experience is telling him that precipitous action can be disastrous and can undermine the stated goal of strengthening US and world security. Why else would he allow the perception of a break with his son rise like it has? He must be seriously concerned about a real "blunder" coming from his son's current policy.

No comments: