Three Wise Men and an Idiot

I didn’t notice, but I’ve been told George W, Bush delivered his latest speech smoothly, more so than most of his speeches. He has certainly practiced the stay-the-course storyline.

How many times have we suffered White House fanfare for a presidential speech that will finally solve the mystery of our foreign policy? How many times have we listened, only to reluctantly conclude that George W. Bush is indeed a broken record, and worse for wear?

George waved the bloody shirt at Fort Bragg, recalling 9-11 and global terrorists. He again brought forth the well-used and amazingly stupid idea that we will somehow take the war to the terrorists. And yes, he was talking about Iraq.

Those of us living in the reality-based world must be ever so tiresome to our nifty commander in chief.

In the real world, Mr. Bush, young Americans die, are maimed and morally devastated by wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, both conducted without legal or moral justification, and hence without hope. In the real world, Americans, Iraqis and Afghans all suffer a conflict dreamed up by finely fed and well-dressed neoconservatives in air-conditioned Washington suites.

At leisurely lunches and late night planning sessions they designed a boutique war to be fought by tin soldiers. I imagine the work, and the finger food, was positively delicious.

As he has since his 9-11 raison d’tre, Bush emphasized this week that we shall prevail by taking the war to the "terrorists." This must sound great echoing off the peach and lavender rooms of the administration’s unreality-based world.

On the other hand, many great thinkers on military affairs have extensively studied the reality-based world, and thus might be helpful. Sun Tzu, for example. The ancient strategist wrote, "The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points; and his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately few."

Transfixed by the light of their own brilliance reflecting from pastel-sheened walls and bulletproof windows, the Bush administration hears him not.

Karl von Clausewitz wrote, "No one starts a war — or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so — without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it."

Hear, hear! But it seems that the neoconservatives who long envisioned the toppling of the Ba’ath Party, and the emplacement of an administration-friendly Prime Minister in Baghdad as a Do-it-Yourself weekend project, were deafened once again by their own self-congratulatory cheers.

Clausewitz, always trying to help innocent politicians, wryly noted, "In war the will is directed at an animate object that reacts."

Sir Basil Liddell-Hart, in the mid-1900s, not so long ago, expanded upon Clausewitz in this regard. The old Brit noted, "Natural hazards, however formidable, are inherently less dangerous and less uncertain than fighting hazards. All conditions are more calculable, all obstacles more surmountable than those of human resistance."

As President, George W. Bush is a public example of a life spent failing to learn from either his betters or his mistakes, refusing to develop empathy when revenge felt better, and avoiding the hard work and self-doubt of personal accountability. He vows to stay the course and exercise his will because without that, he is left alone with his fears of inconsequentiality and too many vengeful ghosts. It’s enough to drive a man to drink, to swear, to cry and crumble.

The audience at Bragg was politically controlled and generally pro-Bush, yet the only applause-based interruption of Bush’s speech was apparently the result of a Bush aide’s signaling.

American service members and their families — now in the third year of a three-week war driven by a secret Washington establishment geostrategy and fueled by blatant repetitive lies — have seen their friends and lovers and children in wheelchairs and in coffins. They have intimately witnessed the disturbing moral fractures and personality changes that are inevitable in war — whether Congress declares one or not. Unlike George W. Bush, they are challenged by this. Unlike their confident and willful President, they pray every day for their faith to be sustained, and to be delivered from evil.

That they might need to be prompted to cheer this particular President is no surprise.

Sir Basil also noted that "No man can exactly calculate the capacity of human genius and stupidity, nor the incapacity of will."

The history of George W. Bush and his long-desired and endless war in Iraq may disprove Liddell-Hart on this count.