Me, linking to American Conservative Magazine’s site, but I saw it first on Balloon Juice and thought it was a very thoughtful piece by Daniel Larison.
I don’t assume that Bush did any of the things he did because he didn’t have “American values” or didn’t love his country. I don’t assume that he trashed our relations with Europe, Turkey and Russia because he wanted America to be isolated or because he loathed these other nations. It is certainly true that he harmed American interests, weakened American power, wrecked our fiscal house and isolated us from many of our allies and potential partners, but the world is full of stories of people who harm that which they love. Bush’s problem wasn’t that he didn’t love America. The problem was that he had no idea what he was doing and substituted ideological fantasies in place of understanding.
Indeed, most of his catastrophic blunders came from an excess of sentiment and emotion concerning these things, combined with absolutely incompetent execution and an ideological obsession with American virtue and strength that ensured that his actions would be excessive, arrogant, ill-conceived and unrelated to the real world. Bush’s love of country was something similar to what the Apostle called in another context “zeal not according to knowledge.” The man was actually overflowing with saccharine, do-gooding, Gersonian sentimentality and he had no shortage of emotional, demonstrative professions of patriotic devotion. So what? What good did it do anyone? It might even have been better had Bush been less enthusiastic in trying to protect the United States, since he would not have been so ready to see dire threats around every corner where none existed. America needs fewer paranoid, jealous lovers, not more.
When we look at policy and the results of policy, however, all of Bush’s love and emotion count for nothing. We also hear all the time how much Bush cared about dissidents overseas, but what we forget to mention is how much stronger authoritarian regimes of various stripes, both allied and non-allied, became on his watch.
Far too often we read attacks on opponents that are based on nothing more than their membership in the ‘wrong’ party. Mr Larison’s piece is an example of thoughtful examination of a person who said all the ‘right’ stuff but truly didn’t possess the knowledge or ability to carry out his stated goals. I would think that within a few years, the right wing in America will be denigrating the Bush years even more viciously than those of us on the left have done for years.
Then again, they might just do as they have done with St Ronnie and create a mythology out of whole cloth – they’re good at that sort of thing.