What’s going on with George W. Bush? How can he stay so seemingly oblivious to the havoc (and human suffering) his decisions are wreaking—especially in Iraq?
In my view, he’s a black-and-white, binary thinker who needs enemies and a cause to give his life order and meaning. The 9/11 attacks were a “godsend” for him, as they were for Rudy Giuliana. From a floundering sense of things his first eight months in office, Bush soon got his focus: war on terror and, oh yes, war on Saddam Hussein and Iraq. It wasn’t much of a leap to try to “finish” what his dad had started.
Five preliminary notes:
With that as background, the key: By late ’02, with his decision essentially made to invade Iraq, Bush became a “war president.” This gave the binary thinker the single-minded focus/fixation he so desperately craved (when there wasn’t a bottle to hit and he couldn’t find bin Laden). It was too complicated and tedious to have to deal with the maddening nuances of governance and compromise. But what’s important—and tragic—here is that he chose to become a war president: in order to give him something to zero in on, to give his life meaning, to ensure (or so he thought) his revered place in history. What Bush failed to understand was that most other war presidents in U.S. history had that awful responsibility thrust upon them—though a case could be made for this country stirring up other wars and military take-overs as well: Cuba, Philippines, Hawaii, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, etc. (see Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can’t Kick Militarism by Joel Andreas). Bush pre-emptively sought war, only giving lipservice to the U.N. process of diplomacy. The previous pre-emptive wars in U.S. history pale in comparison to Iraq in size, scope, length, cost—maybe even audacity.
Bush’s thinking appears to be that people can say what they will because war presidents are usually criticized in the heat of battle, but then history proves them right. He has read many of those war histories and he knows how leaders from Washington to Lincoln to Churchill/Roosevelt had to be resolute during the dark and trying times. But the horror of Bush is that he brought on this war virtually single-handed—for his own deeply dubious and suspect reasons, one of which appears to be narcissism as a driving personality trait (the oldest child with a sense of entitlement, the apple of Mom’s eye). And he has insisted on continuing—and even escalating—the war for the same reasons.
Two final analogies:
January 2007 (revised March 28, 2007)
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