Saturday, July 5, 2008

Bush revisionism?

Did you catch this? The other day, David Brooks wrote this concerning the Bush administration and its Iraq policy:

"...Bush, who made such bad calls early in the war, made a courageous and astute decision in 2006. More than a year on, the surge has produced large, if tenuous, gains. Violence is down sharply. Daily life has improved. Iraqi security forces have been given time to become a more effective fighting force. The Iraqi government is showing signs of strength and even glimmers of impartiality. Iraq has moved from being a failed state to, as Vali Nasr of the Council on Foreign Relations has put it, merely a fragile one. The whole episode is a reminder that history is a complicated thing. The traits that lead to disaster in certain circumstances are the very ones that come in handy in others. The people who seem so smart at some moments seem incredibly foolish in others. The cocksure war supporters learned this humbling lesson during the dark days of 2006. And now the cocksure surge opponents, drunk on their own vindication, will get to enjoy their season of humility. They have already gone through the stages of intellectual denial. First, they simply disbelieved that the surge and the Petraeus strategy was doing any good. Then they accused people who noticed progress in Iraq of duplicity and derangement. Then they acknowledged military, but not political, progress. Lately they have skipped over to the argument that Iraq is progressing so well that the U.S. forces can quickly come home."

Many used to take it as simply an established fact that Iraq was a complete mess, nothing could be salvaged from it, and that Bush's idea for a "surge" was nonsensical. They don't say that anymore. Yes, Brooks is a neoconservative. But he's been very critical of the Bush administration in the past, and other writers have acknowledged the successes of the surge, too.

Brooks and others may be heralding a re-evaluation of the Bush presidency. It can happen. Harry Truman, when he left office in January 1953, was a more unpopular president than W. is now. But opinions concerning Truman changed. The same could happen here. We'll keep our eyes on this in the coming months.