Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ten Years in the Abyss

The ongoing violence in Egypt's major city reminds us that authoritarian leaders and regimes are better at putting down rebellions.  Although it remains to be seen how the situation will shake out in Egypt, the Muslim World is replete with examples of dictators crushing uprisings including Saddam's Iraq, the Taliban's Afghanistan Iran, and Syria.

The United States and its few allies have been combating a much more organized and dangerous form of violence for ten years: Militant Islamism.  This is a coordinated effort by many thousands of Muslims who believe Islam commands them to rid the world of all infidels or everyone who does not believe as they do.  This is not a political position that can be assuaged, bartered or compromised away as Western rulers want to believe.

What does this say about our long-term chances for success? As the film "Apocalypse Now" noted "Good does not always triumph over evil." The implication is that the forces of evil are willing and able to go to any lengths to prevail in the end and reasonable democratic leaders will eventually turn away from the abyss out of fear of becoming like the enemy. But was Rambo right? To win a war does one have to become war?  Current events in Lebanon, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran do not bode well for Western hopes of a peace or even coexistence.  We seem to be fighting to not lose while our enemy is fighting for total victory whether that comes in the next year or in the next century.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Review: "Decision Points" by George W. Bush

 President Bush's book is not a traditional political memoir. It does not exhaustively chronicle his entire eight years in office, but instead discusses and explains the key decisions of his presidency. Supreme Court appointments, 9/11 and the War on Terror make up the central topics. "Decision Points" tackles these topics in Bush fashion: straight forward and unadorned. His simple prose may annoy the literary set, but the more practical minded will appreciate the refreshingly unaffected style.

The best chapter is the one that describes the surge of troops and change of strategy in Iraq near the end of 2006.  President Bush recounts the pressure he was under by the public and Democrat and Republican congressmen to withdraw troops and essentially admit defeat.  Bush makes it clear that he never gave up on the dedication of the troops or the aspirations of millions of Iraqis who who were struggling to build a better country.  His courageous decision and the Iraqi's ability to follow-through on their promises to help is an aspiring story of good triumphing over evil.

Those hoping for juicy White House gossip or the revelation of secret information will be disappointed. The war is ongoing so President Bush is restrained from releasing much new information, but the ultimate insider's account of a president at war is still compelling reading,