WAR WILL DEFINE HIM

WAR WILL DEFINE HIM: WaPo’s Dana Milbank has some insights on the consequences of invading Iraq and the man who will make that decision:

Bush has come to view his leadership of post-9/11 America as a matter of fate, or of God’s will. He has said the country is “called to defend our nation and to lead the world to peace,” and he often says the mission is to extend liberty, “God’s gift to every human being in the world.”

With that assumption, it is almost impossible to imagine Bush confining the war on terrorism to al Qaeda. Instead, he quickly embraced the most sweeping foreign policy proposal his most hawkish advisers had developed — a vision of American supremacy and preemption of emerging threats — and that policy leads inexorably to Iraq, and beyond.

Bush’s aides believe the president made up his mind about Iraq in the early days after Sept. 11. He resolved to do everything possible to prevent it from happening again. “September 11 gave him a never-again sense,” one senior aide said. “He never wants to stand again before another pile of rubble. He’ll err on the side of being overly vigilant.”

Bush has said as much himself. “The price of doing nothing exceeds the price of taking action,” he said in his Thursday news conference.

Though Bush asserts with certainty that he is taking the least risky option, there is much at stake. If all goes well, Bush’s Iraq war may be compared to President Harry S. Truman’s Berlin Airlift, which represented the implementation of a new U.S. foreign policy that ultimately won the Cold War. If it goes badly, it may be remembered in the same way as President Woodrow Wilson’s “war to end wars,” which instead was followed by instability, economic collapse and genocide.

One wonders how a President Gore would have handled this.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.