October 03, 2003

Vidal Award Yes, I know,

Vidal Award

Yes, I know, I haven't handed one of these out in a long time. But this Arthur Schlesinger piece really got to me:

"Looking back over the forty years of the cold war, we can be everlastingly grateful that the loonies on both sides were powerless. In 2003, however, they run the Pentagon, and preventive war—the Bush Doctrine—is now official policy. Sixty years ago the Japanese anticipated the Bush Doctrine in their attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbor. This was, FDR observed, an exploit that would live in infamy—except now, evidently, when employed by the United States."

We can quibble about whether the Iraq campaign constituted a preventive war as opposed to preemptive (contra Schlesinger, I'd argue the latter, albeit based on faulty intelligence and in a climate characterized by post 9/11 "better safe than sorry" reasoning).

But to simply call Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz "loonies" is not befitting an eminent historian.

And, most galling, note the gross relativism Schlesinger employs comparing Axis Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor with the Bush Administration's attack on Iraq.

Did Imperial Japan consult international bodies before sending suicide planes into our Navy ships? Was there a rough equivalent of Dubya's September 12th speech to the U.N. followed up by a unanimous UNSC resolution emitting from the Emperor's chambers in Tokyo? Most assuredely not--and not just because the League of Nations was no longer extant.

And then there is this gem:

"I think the press and television are also to be blamed for the absence of opposition. Comments by Cheney and Rumsfeld were given top billing in most American papers, even The New York Times, while thoughtful and reasoned speeches by Edward Kennedy and Robert Byrd opposing the rush to preventive war were consigned to a paragraph on the back pages or wholly ignored." [my emphasis]

Yeah, the NYT is supposed to provide neo-Kennedy court hagiography style slant on all matters Iraq, didn't you know? How dare they not give front page billing to the Iraq strategy musings of Ted Kennedy?

But there's more:

"There were no such apologies in Mr. Bush's inaugural address. He acted as if he had won in a landslide and had earned an electoral mandate—and he got away with it.

"For all his buffoonish side, the President is secure in himself, disciplined, decisive and crafty, and capable of concentrating on a few priorities. He has maintained control of a rag-tag Republican coalition, well described by Kevin Phillips (author of The Emerging Republican Majority, 1969) as consisting of "Wall Street, Big Energy, multinational corporations, the Military-Industrial Complex, the Religious Right, the Market Extremist think-tanks, and the Rush Limbaugh Axis." All these groups agree in their strong support of their president, though they sharply disagree among themselves."

Oh yes, Simian George, the bufoonish cretin widely derided in Central Park West pads. The moron even thought he had an electoral mandate after winning the electoral college. Imagine that!

Oh, and what's the "Rush Limbaugh axis"? Pill-popping fellas who don't think African-American QBs can cut it?

This is all pretty inflammatory fare. I think Schlesinger can and should do better than this. This reads too much like a hoary screed hastily written up contra the Crawford redneck. Doubtless it will get a few guffaws of appreciation among the oh-so multilateralist folk pining for Dominique de Villepin in selected (and soi disant) sophisticate Manhattan parlors. But all that aside, it's simply not a judicious appraisal of the Bush Presidency worthy of a major American historian.

Posted by Gregory at October 3, 2003 10:24 AM

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