Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My take on the Bush legacy and the Obama transition

The paradox of George W. Bush.

51 comments:

Christopher said...

Cathy, you say we have to wait for the final verdict on Iraq, which I agree, but I think its fair to ask if ANY eventuality can justify the staggering cost.

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"But there is not a shred of evidence that security-related measures expanding government powers have been used to suppress or punish dissent."

The issue isn't if the Bush administration has abused the new security measures, but if these measures encourage abuse by either the current or by future administrations. Our freedoms are not the result of benevolent governments, but rather the limits we place upon all governments, knowing that excessive power inevitably leads to abuse.

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Cathy, you say we have to wait for the final verdict on Iraq, which I agree, but I think its fair to ask if ANY eventuality can justify the staggering cost.

Staggering cost, hm? As a percentage of GDP we spent 15 times more on the Korean War and ten times as much on Vietnam, and FORTY times as much on World War 2. If Iraq does indeed become a stable democracy, I think it will be hard to construct an argument that "it wasn't worth the cost" that doesn't also label America's involvement in WW2 as "not worth the cost".

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Lets turn it around Revenant. Lets say the going rate for turning militarily weak despotic regimes into democracies is $1 trillion and 4000 U.S. soldiers KIA (plus many more wounded) with a 7 year commitment of over 100,000 troops. How many should we buy? Libya, Iran, Afghanistan (we haven't spent close to that there), Sudan, Somalia, all await.

As for your examples, I don't think they are parallel. I think both involvement in the Korean War and WWII were worthwhile, but I wouldn't dismiss as unserious an argument that Korea wasn't worth the cost. We were, however, protecting an ally from aggressive action by a hostile worldwide alliance. Very different from Iraq (in 2003). As for WWII the ultimate cost for doing nothing there may well have been catastrophic for the American way of life.
You also conveniently measure cost in %age GDP while both your examples come right after a huge downturn in GDP and before 50 years of rapid (and likely unrepeatable growth). And yet, despite this, our government is LESS financially solvent now and can ill afford to be taking on massive amounts of debt to make dubious gambles on non-vital strategic interests.

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