Tuesday, April 21, 2009

If Destroying the Republican Party Makes You a Great President . . .

I was surprised to see an item on the Morehead State University web page on some recent writing by IRAPP professor and future colleague Mike Hail:
“Overall, President Bush was a very good president. He demonstrated the vision and character that define executive leadership,” said Dr. Hail. “Bush had both success and failure with his policy agenda. However, history will record George W. Bush as one of our greatest presidents and, in time, there will be a collective acknowledgement of his superb leadership in a time of war, international pressure, and economic challenge.”
Of course, all of this is nonsense. At best, George W. Bush will be rated in the second-lowest tier of presidents and his historical BFF's (best friends forever) will be Martin Van Buren, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, and Franklin Pierce, and Richard Nixon. However, the current deep recession could turn into a depression and Iraq could still end up looking a lot more like Somalia and Pakistan than a stable democracy. If these things happen, Bush will be closely associated with helpless figures like Warren Harding, James Buchanan, and Herbert Hoover at the bottom of presidential rankings.

There's also a wild card that needs to be played out. The main thrust of my blogging over the last several weeks is that George Bush could be the last Republican president this country ever sees. In that case, future historians will be evaluating the role of the Bush administration in destroying a major political party and permanently marginalizing a political conservatism that was ascendant before he took office. It could very well be that killing the Republican Party will force historians and political scientists to view George Bush as a uniquely failed president.

Of course, it really is hard to beat Buchanan for ineptitude. So Bush probably won't be seen as the worst president in American history--just the biggest failure.


Anonymous said...

Hail's assessment of George W. Bush is just idiotic. That whole article on the MSU website makes Morehead State University look like a bunch of idiots. That propaganda is no different than the propaganda spewed forth by the North Korean press that says Kim Jong Il is the greatest world leader that ever lived. I can't believe that MSU placed this type of trash on their Internet homepage. It is nothing more than embarrassing propaganda.

Ric Caric said...

I heard some comments along that line from colleagues.

Chris Brew said...

Pakistan is nothing like Somalia. To be sure, the so-called "tribal areas" (which have a tiny proportion of the population) are not under control of the central government, but the cities and Punjab are pretty much in line with the generality of Third World countries with a democratic tradition. There obviously have been periods where Pakistan has been under dictatorships of various sorts, but it is not alone in that. If Iraq comes out of the next few years with as strong a judiciary and as prosperous and tolerant a population as Pakistan, that would certainly exceed most people's expectations.

Ric Caric said...

Pakistan is in danger of becoming a lot like Somalia. Here's a quote from a McClatchy story (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/66368.html) that forefully makes the point.

"WASHINGTON — A growing number of U.S. intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials have concluded that there's little hope of preventing nuclear-armed Pakistan from disintegrating into fiefdoms controlled by Islamist warlords and terrorists, posing a greater threat to the U.S. than Afghanistan's terrorist haven did before 9/11.

"It's a disaster in the making on the scale of the Iranian revolution," said a U.S. intelligence official with long experience in Pakistan who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly."

The point for my argument is the claim that Pakistan is "disintegrating into fiefdoms." That's precisely where Somalia is right now and there's a very decent shot that Iraq will deteriorate into the same position after American troops leave.

Chris Brew said...

That's an interesting analysis. I hope that it is wrong, and Juan Cole's take on what is going on is right. His view is that the FATA Taliban are a small problem for Pakistan and unlikely to gain control. The argument rests exactly on the strength of the army and distaste for extremism in the vast majority of the population. I also wonder whether the Pentagon experts are primarily concerned with the implications for Afghanistan of the Pakistan situation. These are serious, and it would be a good trick to get the Pakistani Army to turn its focus to this, so that others don't have to. So far,
the Pakistani Army has preferred to let the tribal areas do pretty much as they choose. Traditionally
the Pushtun/Pathan tribes that straddle the border
have been immensely resistant to central authority, so that might actually be good policy in purely Pakistani terms.

I would be amazed if Iraq does not deteriorate
when the troops leave.

Anonymous said...

What if the US troops don't actually leave. I don't see them leaving in the next 50 years. We are just starting to work on the oil extraction phase of the US operation. We aren't going anywhere anytime soon. All that talk is just that. Oh, a few troops may leave to make it look like we are pulling out, but don't be taken by any of that. We've got years of oil work yet to be done by US and British oil firms. There is more oil being discovered in Iraq all the time. We're there for the long haul. Obama isn't going to change anything relating to the US economic policy in the Middle East. With Hillary at the rudder and Obama at the helm the good ship US OIL is still on track in Iraq.

Anonymous said...

To indicate the Pakistan is such a tolerant and progressive third world country seems a bit mistaken. Pakistan is an economic basket case with extreme poverty and low expenditures toward education with half the people not even having access to clean drinking water. Half the population is under 15 years old. They have more people than Russia all living along the few river valleys and will double their population in about 25 years to over 300 million if nothing changes. Pakistan has no future. There is no comparing Iraq and Pakistan. They are two very different countries and Pakistan is no model for Iraq to aim for. Iraq has all the oil that could transform that country into something quite nice if the could get their act together. The US is in Iraq. The US is NOT in Pakistan and we have no desire to be there.

Anonymous said...

When will the US people get their head out of their behinds and understand that we are in Iraq for OIL, OIL and more OIL. We still need the same energy even if we have changed who sits in a big house in D.C. Our energy situation hasn't changed and we didn't spend a trillion dollars to give Saddam the boot and not get what we came for. When it comes to foreign policy in Iraq, the only difference since the last election is that the president is now a black man that can sting an good sentence together and has a smooth touch to things with different friends. Nothing else in Iraq has changed on the ground in regard to foreign policy. The last blogger was right, anything else is just talk with a little smoke and mirrors to make it look different.

Chris Brew said...

Juan Cole has just posted a long and (to me)
persuasive analysis of what is up with current
discussion of Pakistan.

Ric Caric said...

I have to admit that I've long been panicked about Pakistan--since the attack on the Indian parliament actually.

Pakistan has two problems. First, Pakistan has an ineffective government that doesn't control large sections of the country (I've seen estimates of up to 45%).

Second, there are elements of Pakistan's military and intelligence apparatus that favor the Taliban.

The combination of being a failed state (a term often used in relation to Pakistan) and having terrorist sympathizers in the government is very dangerous and has been for some time.

The fact that the Pakistani government hasn't been able to control the Muslim fundamentalist insurgency despite the insurgency's lack of popular support is also disturbing.