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June 7, 2004
Shields Learned Nothing From History, Lectures Bush

Mark Shields takes George Bush to task in his regular CNN column for not being sufficiently respectful of his father. Shields notes that Bush 43 considers the ending of the 1991 Gulf War to be a mistake, and one he doesn't intend to repeat now:

If the foregoing was simply insensitive, George W. Bush's comparison of the first U.S. war against Iraq, when his dad was commander in chief, and the current U.S. war against Iraq is damning. In "Misunderestimated: The President Battles Terrorism, John Kerry and the Bush Haters" by Bill Sammon of The Washington Times, George W. Bush states: "I think freedom will prevail, so long as the U.S. and its allies don't ... do what many Iraqis still suspect might happen, and that is cut and run early, like what happened in '91."

That is nothing less than a slur on George H.W. Bush by his own flesh and blood, the current leader of the free world.

That doesn't sit well with Shields, who suddenly has developed a high sense of protectiveness for Bush 41, a sense that he notably lacked during 41's presidency. Shields huffs:

This is not ancient history. We are talking about 1991. George W. Bush's ignorant contempt for or potential ignorance of his own father's successful political and military leadership 13 years ago in Desert Storm is as distressing as it is disturbing. Does the 43rd president have serious, unresolved "issues" with the 41st president?

No, he doesn't have "issues" (using the pseudo-psychology-speak that so many clueless people have adopted) with 41. Unlike Shields, however, 43 learned something from history, and so did the people that Shields uses to prop up 41's political decision to let Saddam off the hook. Our coalition partners hemmed us in with what turned out to be a half-assed objective: rolling back the agression without doing anything to address the aggressor. Instead of recognizing that Saddam would be a long-term threat to stability in the region and that his WMD programs (well-documented at the time) presented a clear danger to the US and the West, Bush 41 and his advisors stuck with that inadequate mission even when Saddam's regime stood on the brink of collapse and the road to Baghdad was wide open.

At the time, people worried the coalition might fracture, but all that demonstrates is the folly of adapting strategic thinking for the sake of the coalition, rather than forming coalitions that meet strategic thinking. What did the resolution of the first Gulf War bring the West? Did it increase the love in the region for us? No; when it became apparent that Saddam wouldn't abide by any of the terms of the cease-fire except the extraction of his shattered forces from Kuwait, the UN slapped on a sanctions program that did nothing but enrich Saddam and impoverish his subjects. For years we heard that sanctions killed 5,000 children a month, and now we've learned that it succeeded wildly at propping up Saddam's genocidal tyranny. When the Shi'ites attempted to rise up in the South, thinking that the Americans would support them, Saddam ruthlessly crushed them. National Geographic estimates in this month's issue that as many as 7 million Shi'ites "disappeared" since what Shields describes as a success.

In the end, 41's caution and overwhelming concern for coalition maintenance condemned the US and UK -- and the Iraqi people -- to a twelve-year quagmire while Saddam feasted and built connections to various terror groups. 41 himself wound up being targeted for assassination by Saddam as payback for his measured response. And when we finally resolved to bring the circus to an end, some of our friends wound up abandoning us anyway (the ones who sold out to Saddam) and the Arab nations wound up on the sidelines, just as they would have in '91 had 41 simply pushed forward. The twelve years cost us billions enforcing a sanctions regime in which everyone but the US and UK cheated, led hundreds of thousands to early deaths from starvation, millions more dead at the hand of the man who started the problem in the beginning. It also eroded our credibility as a world power, giving the impression that the US would not conduct ground combat for any extended period of time if we ran any risk of casualties, a lesson we would reinforce in Mogadishu in 1993.

Is this what Shields considers a victory?

In further irony, although not as Shields supposes, he continues by scolding 43 for not following his father's strategy and praises Kerry for being heir to the 41 mantle:

One irony of this 2004 election campaign is that the Democratic challenger, John F. Kerry, through his emphasis on coalition building, enlisting the United Nations and improved relations with allies, sounds much more like George H.W. Bush than does Bush's own son. In fact, in leaving Yale as a young man to join the Navy and to face combat and death in a U.S. war in the Pacific, John Kerry has led a life that closely mirrors that of George H.W. Bush.

Well, both were in the Navy, and both were injured, but that's where the similarities end. That's a post for another time, but the irony is that Shields holds Kerry up as an example for 43 to follow -- by pursuing the same failed strategy that landed us in the twelve-year Iraqi quagmire in the first place! All of which proves that Shields either slept from 1991 to 2003 or he has completely lost the ability to analyze military and strategic thought. For Shields, as with Kerry and to some extent 41, coalitions trump security and strategy. For 43, protecting Americans dictates the strategy and the coalitions. Take a look at the former policy's fruit in Iraq, 1991-2003, and decide which you think works better.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 7, 2004 7:29 PM

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