Sunday, December 24, 2006

And the war came (or we went looking for it)

"... and the war came"
Abraham Lincoln

".. how to win this war in which we find ourselves"

George W. Bush

"War is the extension of politics."
Karl von Clausewitz

The first two quotes suggest presidents who found themselves almost passively confronted with the horrific reality of war. However, the last quote goes a long way toward explaining the differences between them.

War may indeed be an extension of politics. In the case of the war faced by Abraham Lincoln, political decisions postponed by the framers and profound political changes unforeseen contributed to this horrific conflict. The founding fathers pushed the question of slavery onto future generations, and certainly never anticipated a mechanizing, urbanizing nation with a population spreading from the original colonies afar afield as Texas and California. Growth, urbanization, industrialization and the emergence of a democratic culture from the strictures of an aristocratic republic presented challenges and unanswered questions that may well have required this ultimate drama to resolve. Abraham Lincoln saw the war come, and he led his nation THROUGH it.

George W. Bush's war also was an expression of the political, but it was not the result of both an inexorable march and a response to sudden jarring changes. Rather, it was the fouled fruit of a political ideology founded in American imperial hubris, of bending the world to our will (while generating huge profits for friends and patrons). Mr. Bush, we did not "find ourselves" in this war. You wanted it, sought it and embraced. Unlike Lincoln, you led us TO it, and you show no desire or ability whatsoever to lead us THROUGH it as did your esteemed predecessor.

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