An older post [September 2007] while I am on sabbatical.
Two days ago I read the headline on BBC about a conversation between President Bush and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar during which Bush has said something revealing. I did not read the details. This morning Slate.com has the story with the headline, Learning From Bush's Mistakes: How a prewar conversation can help us pick the next president.
I was curious, so I dove in. Apparently Mr. Bush had asked Aznar to join him as a charter member of 'The Coalition of the Willing" in Bush's preemptive invasion of Iraq. No doubt, Aznar asked Bush about the details, the facts which led him to the conclusion that the preemptive invasion was the right thing to do.
The question in the back of Aznar's mind after he heard the plan was this: "The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism."
Seems a good question and a great observation. Perhaps Aznar knew that Mr. Bush's life was excessively parochial: he had not travelled the world; he had not been interested in geopolitical studies; he had a limited knowledge of world history. No doubt, Mr. Aznar was aghast at this first-ever preemptive military plan that Mr. Bush had just laid out before him.
"The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism," might be a tangential question to the real question that was not said [according to the transcript] in the meeting. Were I the president of Spain, a member of the EU, a nation dependent on EU commerce and EU cooperation, I might have asked Mr. Bush: "Why won't France and Germany join your confederation?" Why not Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Ireland? Perhaps that would be too embarrassing to ask; after all, Europeans have learned politeness.
Rather, the question was, "The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism."
Not unexpectedly, the Bush response was philosophical rather than militarily. It was, well, a hunch. We have come to expect that from Mr. Bush: why use your brain, your advisers, the lessons of history to guide decisions? One's hunch is a perfect guide. Often my own adolescent years were based on hunches. Nearly all were wrong, then I grew up.
BUSH: I'm an optimist because I believe that I'm right. I'm a person at peace with myself. It was our turn to face a serious threat to peace.
Yes, that's what he said.
That's what he believed.
That explains the mess we're in.