Ultimate judgments about the presidency of George W. Bush will in large part be an outgrowth of what he has done and will do in the Middle East, the home of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, actions taken by him while religion yet remains the strongest force behind most anything human, including love, hate, child-rearing and killing.
What has Bush done so far? Well, there is no denying that he has been the epitome of out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new. In the Middle East, business-as-usual is no more. Just because that’s the way it’s always been done no longer prevails as a guideline. The past is no longer prologue. All of this is courtesy of President Bush. And the connections between defeating Islamist terror, al Quaeda, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Israel, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are now there to be seen, for those who look without prejudice. So what is new about the President’s chosen course?
Let’s start with Islamist terror, which has been with us at least since the late 70s. The U.S. invariably reacted with use of criminal law as the appropriate construct. Bringing killers to justice meant finding, arresting, trying and punishing them. One result of this was that most Americans did not realize that they were at war until 9-11-2001. On that date, the president so described the situation. But, even today, many Americans do not actually believe or understand this. They don’t realize that being at war means shaping our conduct with warfare in mind. While justice concepts may still have some applicability, where our enemies are concerned they now take a seat behind our war posture.
Winning the war, according to the President, will in large part depend on the extent to which Middle East countries accept freedom as a defining governmental concept. Of course, a bit of democracy won’t hurt, either. Before the current President, American goals were linked to stable and secure regimes, even if they were despotic. No more. As we should have realized, and as the President does, the safety we treasure cannot be grounded in nations that are tyrannical. And it has been in those tyrannical Middle East states that Islamist terrorists were born, were schooled, were trained and were taught about the wonderful afterlife that awaited after they put their own special killing fields into motion. Putting this realization into action is among the boldest steps ever taken by an American president.
Similarly, the emergence of Islamist terroristic power has forced a change in the rules of engagement. As should have his predecessors, at least beginning with President Carter, Bush imposed on our terror-wielding enemies a doctrine of preemption. Deep thought is not required to see the necessity of preemptive steps when a country is faced with the murderous intentions of a ubiquitous non-state enemy who is willing to forsake lives of their own and of non-warring civilians to bring about a multiple deaths of women and children to gain a psychological victory over, and the surrender of a cherished way of life, the Western way. Reason will not work to prevent homicide bombers who use planes and cars to kill dozens, hundreds and thousands at a time, and who would use more powerful atomic, nuclear, chemical and biological weaponry if they could. Such enemies must be captured or killed, and such capabilities must be prevented. A suit for peace with Islamist terrorists is nothing more than asking them to write the terms of our surrender. Now, at least, no more will they and their families be enticed by $25,000 rewards from Saddam Hussein. Now, at least, a great deal of the banked billions of dollars accumulated for terrorist operations will no longer be available for that purpose.
The nature of the terroristic beast requires that decisive actions based on strength, rather than ad hoc responses to explosive attacks, become the order of the day, and no one has made this clearer than our President. We cannot continue to stand around, even with a watchful collective eye against perceived threats, to see if things get better because non-war is better than war. This kind of danger does not react to that approach except to grow bolder and deadlier. President Bush has rightfully upped the pressure for change, especially regarding the Palestinians who want yet to drive Israel into the sea, the Palestinians whom have been rejected by all contiguous Arab countries and kicked out of Jordan after Black September, the Palestinians who brought no Intifada in response to Egyptian and Jordanian occupation of Gaza and the West Bank from 1948 until 1967, the Palestinians who oppose the President’s two-state resolution in favor of one state, a state that would exclude Jews who are not under their thumb.
One more thing. On this subject, the terms, “conservative” and “liberal,” like much else, are useless relics of the past. We are at war with bullies who like to kill innocents in order to cower the rest of the infidels. When the strengths of freedom and fairness are mobilized to defeat a bully, whether on a school yard or in the Middle East, the wielder of that strength is not a bully, but a hero. Today, to all who are intellectually honest, we are Afghanistan’s hero. I am optimistic that tomorrow’s real story will turn out the same. I look forward to reading about it in the paper and see it on television. That, too, will depend on another root change, at least so far as the tired media are concerned.