Col. Austin Bay, whom I had the pleasure to meet briefly at the MilBlogger Conference this past April, writes that the President made clear at his recent West Point address that he’s working to prepare the nation to carry on the war after he leaves office, something that hasn’t been made very clear very often.
And the President outlined how he thinks it will be accomplished:
Bush believes Muslim nations — and everyone else — can make modernity work. At West Point, Bush dubbed America’s new strategy as “a forward strategy of freedom.” Bush argued American security depends “on the advance of freedom” in other nations and pointed out that “accommodation” in the Middle East “did nothing to make us safe.”
A “forward strategy of freedom” means fostering the development of states where the consent of the governed creates legitimacy and where terrorists are prosecuted, not promoted. Implementing that strategy means nation-building. Since the 2000 presidential campaign, the Bush administration has done a necessary 180 on nation-building. Bush entered office disdaining it. Sept. 11 changed that calculus.
It’s going to be a long hard slog. We won’t know about Iraq until the Iraqis who are young children right now are running their country. If then.
Regarding the “nation building” concept and Bush’s 180-degree turn, I’ll return to something I wrote in April of 2003. I was commenting on some “unanswered questions” asked by Michael Kinsley in a Washington Post op-ed:
“Before Bush begins trying to create a civil society in Iraq, wouldn’t it be nice if he apologized to Bill Clinton and Al Gore for all the nasty, dismissive things he said about “nation-building” in the 2000 campaign?”
It probably would be nice. And if anyone in politics ever did anything for the sake of being nice, Bush might actually do it. Maybe. But in 2000, remember, we were all looking back at Haiti, at Kosovo, and at a humiliating withdrawal from Somalia after many lost the stomach to win. We weren’t looking ahead toward four hijacked airliners and thousands of dead American citizens in September of 2001. President Bush, and the rest of America, has learned some hard lessons in the past year and a half, and our eyes are opened to the possibilities, even the probabilities, of more terror in the years to come. Bush would probably have used different words if he had known then what he knows now. Regardless, the question doesn’t explain anyone’s opposition to the war in Iraq. It’s merely partisan, which is just politics, and petty, which is just pedestrian.
Whenever someone asks why things have changed from the way that they used to be, and the answer “9/11” is given, a lot of folks just roll their eyes. Sure, 9/11 isn’t the reason for everything. But to pretend that it didn’t change things is ignorant.