David Brooks, a conservative columnist I've come to respect, wrote a striking piece in Wednesday's edition of The New York Times entitled, "Ends Without Means" (it's TimeSelect-available only, alas – I coughed up a buck to read the print edition). He describes spending time in close proximity to President Bush recently as a small group of (conservative-leaning, I believe) journalists got some face time with our Commander-in-Chief.
"Let me just first tell you that I've never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions," President Bush says, and Brooks sizes up the President and declares that far from the eager-to-please politicians that he usually encounters, Bush "…is the most inner-directed man on the globe."
Bush takes the long view, it seems, a strategic thinker secure in his belief that the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq will one day be hailed by historians and all free peoples as an essential chapter in the eventually victorious war campaign against terror. Unfortunately, as Brooks goes onto explain, Bush's self-confidence and personal magnetism dim when discussing the drudgery of day-to-day tactics and operations. In alluding to the fact that less than global resources have been applied toward this "global struggle," Brooks ends by stating that, "…the sad truth is, there has been a gap between Bush's visions and the means his administration has devoted to realize them. And when tactics do not adjust to fit the strategy, then the strategy gets diminished to fit the tactics." He then finishes with a final ominous two words: "Or worse."
This is not a particularly new assessment, of course, merely a cogent analysis and interesting in that it comes from one of an increasingly vocal group of conservative thinkers, writers, and pundits who are now sharpening their criticism of how Iraq is being handled.
What I found to be most startling was a single sentence in David Brooks' piece.
Writing about Bush's explanation of his vision, Brooks states that, "He asked us to think about what the world could be like 50 years from now, with Islamic radicals either controlling the world's oil supply or not."
With everything that's happened over the past three-and-a-half years, it's a bit difficult to recall the run up to the war, the cries of "No Blood For Oil!" from the left, and the sharp rebukes and calls to patriotism from the right. That the Iraqi people would greet us as liberators and that Iraqi oil would surely pay for the costs of the mercifully short war, and so on.
And it's fascinating that, what with all the talk of a "freedom agenda" and democracy in the Middle East and all its wondrous benefits, that the President would circle back to speaking about access to oil, particularly from such a speculative and futuristic standpoint.
Further, isn't it none too disturbing to believe (or at least to know that the President of the United States believes) to assume that we will be as dependent on foreign oil 50 years from now as we are now?
That, perhaps, we are being forced to engage in a protracted and bloody and costly and destabilizing war now so that our grandchildren can freely reap the benefits of further depleting the Earth's finite resources? Could it have been a slip of the tongue, the President being museful amongst right-thinking writer types?
On the same editorial page in the Times, Bob Herbert questions the character of the American people, wondering what happened to a country now ruled by fear, that invades nations based upon shifting notions and theories (Vice President Cheney, let's remember, on Meet the Press announced that he would do everything exactly the same way again if he could), and seeks to negate the rights, constitutional and otherwise, for "terror suspects."
It's a good question.