The Bush Paradox

David Brooks is right - up to a point:

Before long, the more honest among the surge opponents will concede that Bush, that supposed dolt, actually got one right. Some brave souls might even concede that if the U.S. had withdrawn in the depths of the chaos, the world would be in worse shape today.

I think I've been pretty open-minded about Iraq this past year and don't fall into the camp of those denying the surge's progress. I was cocksure once, about the original invasion, and not twice about the options that remained. Still: I'm not sure David's second point holds.

We do not know what the long-term implications of the last year will be. History is unpredictable like that. It may be that historians in the future will look back at the surge and argue that it was the chimera that kept America in a no-win imperial province for decades, precipitating a wider and unnecessary war for oil when we should have been using our own unique skills to forge a post-oil future. It may be that a withdrawal by now would have forced more quickly a resolution of the power-struggles within Iraq, with more short-term cost and horror but less long-term agony and drain on the West.

This we do not know. And we do not know that Bush or Cheney made this call for good reasons, or out of willful stubbornness to entrench their legacy, for good or ill. I understand why David wants to see some good in this crew of miscreants in the White House. But that may say more about Brooks than Bush.