Well, it's the 20th anniversary of the Gulf War, and... can you believe it's been 20 years already? Wow, time sure flies when the American Empire is having fun. At any rate – George Bush Sr., AKA Bush I, AKA Bush 41, AKA The One With a Brain, is getting together with the old-school-tie gang to celebrate what was, I suppose, one of our finer moments, foreign policy-wise. Or war-wise, at least. We managed to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait by bombing the crap out of them as well as scooting across the desert, Rommel vs. Patton style... but mysteriously stopped just short of the Iraqi border – a move (or non-move) that was considered a bit wimpy and limp-wristed at the time. Why not go all the way to Baghdad? -- was the cry. Why not send troops after the Republican Guard and the Hammurabi Division? Well, we found out why later, when Bush's pinhead son, Bush 43, invaded Iraq in response to... well, let's just forget about the “why”, shall we? It's all too awkward... too “divisive”. And sure, the Republican Guard and the Hammurabi Division turned out to have glass jaws -- but then we had to deal with the Iraqi people, and where were those palm fronds they were supposed to strew in our path, according to the neocons? "Shock and awe" make great news footage, but there's nothing more depressing and demoralizing than being an occupying force in a country where the vast majority of people hate our guts.
But here's what gets me. According to an article dealing with the anniversary of the Gulf War, Bush the First is rightly proud of his accomplishment back then -- “he has no regrets about his administration's handling of the Gulf War... including the decision to pull out American forces even with a vanquished Saddam Hussein retaining power in Iraq”. And in retrospect, this does, in fact, seem to have been the right decision, although at the time – when I was still in my “neocon” mode, and before I realized that neoconservatism is a gigantic hoax – I was a bit put out by the... well, not cowardice necessarily, but let's call it “scrupulosity” involved. I mean, we went over there to liberate Kuwait (whether they deserved liberation or not), and that's just what we did – period. “Mission accomplished.” It was not yet time to invade Iraq; this decision had, clearly, been made at the “highest levels”, because at that point it would have been an easy enough thing to do, and it might even have worked – up to a point. But that was left for lesser men to accomplish, and pay the price for. At least someone at the time realized that chasing the Iraqis out of Kuwait and chasing them all the way to Baghdad were, let's say, two distinctly different types of operation. The minute you cross the border, you're fighting the enemy on his own soil -- a "home-field advantage" that has proven decisive down through history.
The article goes on to say that “Bush said that if he had pushed to oust or kill Saddam, he would have risked losing support from many other countries that backed the war after the invasion of Kuwait.” Can you say “coalition of the willing”, class? You know -- that group of supporters that has become increasingly disgusted with the Iraq debacle and has, one by one, taken their dolls and gone home? It seems Bush I and Co. also anticipated this problem.
And here's James Baker: If the mission had been changed from the liberation of Kuwait to an invasion of Iraq, “you would have been turning a war of liberation into a war of occupation.” Sound familiar? Baker also described the reaction of Congress thusly: “How can you spend the resources of the country on this adventure when people are going hungry and our domestic situation and blah, blah, blah.” Right. And it's funny how all those “blah blah blah's” finally caught up with Bush II, and now with Obama. To paraphrase Orson Welles -- "we will sell no war before its time."
The bottom line of all this is that Bush I and his crew are bathing in fond remembrance of all the mistakes they didn't make – mistakes which Bush II and his crew were only too anxious to make after 9/11. Is there some Freudian theme going on here? It was often remarked, after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, that Bush II was trying to somehow make up for his father's failings and short-sightedness... to be better than the old man... a better warrior, a better war president. Very possible, certainly... but it can also be argued that Bush I was not only right, but was at least his own man to some extent... that he's reasonably intelligent and has a sense of history (two qualities that Bush II has never been accused of having)... and that he knew, or had a gut feel for, what would happen if we ever tried to put “boots on the ground” in Iraq.
Of course, it can also be argued that Bush I's actions only served to “kick the can down the road”, and that we would, sooner or later, come into conflict with Iraq anyway. So he, basically, left the problem up to the next chump, er, president... who turned out to be, not Bill Clinton, but his own son. Another Freudian angle to all this! ("I always said you weren't worth a damn!") Or maybe it's just karma. Certainly both Bushes are card-carrying members of the power elite; no one has ever denied that. But even within those hallowed and exalted ranks, there survive individual differences in intellect, style, and so forth. Bush I was a pragmatist, not an idealist, and was never really with the program when it came to Reaganomics or “the shining city on a hill” or any of that other stuff. He is, was, and ever shall be a globalist and an elitist, seeking the advantage of his own class at whatever expense it might entail for everyone else. But hey, at least he's honest about it. His son, on the other hand, is not only a pinhead, but also a dupe, and easily malleable by dark forces. So which of them merits more respect? And which one turned out to have the more sensible foreign policy? The globalist or the – allegedly – patriot/idealist? Certainly, both were pursuing the American Empire as a subset of globalism, but in Bush I's case it was a more overt, unabashed operation – the “new world order” and all that. Bush II had to disguise his globalism in patriotic garb – or let's say that his handlers had to do so.
Frankly, if I have to choose between two varieties of globalist empire builders, I'd prefer the pragmatist who makes no bones about his ambitions and who actually has something to say about what happens. The alternative – the sock-puppet model represented by Bush II – is demeaning, revolting, and completely unworthy of even a dishonorable program like empire-building.