Evaluating GWB I

March 11, 2004

One of the striking things about people is that smart folks can look at the same body of information, focus on different aspects of it, and come to radically different conclusions. This process is fun to look at from the outside, but dreadfully frustrating when otherwise smart people look at the same body of information that you are looking at, and then come out completely opposed to your views. How, one asks, can someone who is otherwise so clever, be so very wrong? And does this mean that I am wrong? I can't be wrong!

This pattern has been quite obvious in recent weeks as people take partisan stands on the War on Terror and on the 2004 Presidential election as a referendum on the War on Terror to date. I know of several people who generally disagree with GWB on policy, on the people he hires, on the style of his particular imperial presidency, and on the general membership of his party, but who have resolved to hold their noses and vote for GWB because he has done a good job in the war on terror. To name a few names, among many, we find Michelle, Sheila O'Malley, Michael Totten, and Dennis Miller in this camp.

Others, both from the foreign policy world or from Democratic political circles, look at the same war on terror and conclude that GWB has been a miserable failure as a war President. They have looked at the same information, have focused on execution rather than on goals, and have not been impressed. This group includes the usual suspects of the left, Brad DeLong, Kevin Drum, and others. It also includes disgruntled conservatives like Phil Carter, who by training and inclination both favor an aggressive foreign policy and insists that these policies be carried out effectively. These folks generally believe in a strong military, believe that the military must both intervene and retain the potential to intervene internationally in order to promote American interests, and dislike the details of current military policy.

What I want to do in this series is work through the major events since 9/11 and come up with a measured reading of GWB and his policies - set of think pieces to help me figure out what to praise and what to challenge. My presupposition as I start this exercise is that the NeoCon notion of using contagious democracy to remove the underpinnings of Islamic terrorism is a strategy with a wonderful upside if it works, but a policy that will be hard to implement effectively.

As I go through the exercise I will be using as the test of American policy the criterion of "reasonable decision, effectively implemented." I am not looking for the perfect strategy, the perfect is the enemy of the good. I am looking for something that was good enough, and that was implemented well enough to be effective. It is a lower bar, but a realistic bar - heaven save us all from an administration that tries to do the "perfect" thing in every instance, for the key to effective leadership is making decisions that are good enough, making them in imperfect information, executing them well enough, and adjusting execution on the fly so as to achieve the original goals.

I thought about doing it in one big post, but then I made a list of all the things I want to talk about, and decided that I don't have time to write it and you have no desire to read it. So I will do a series, like my interrupted but not forgotten series on Body Issues.

Posted by Red Ted at March 11, 2004 10:46 AM | TrackBack

I'm looking forward to this!

Posted by: Ted at March 11, 2004 12:50 PM
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