Day By Day

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The World War that Wasn't

In the midst of the current excitement over the Bush Revolution in the Middle East, it is appropriate to take note of the perhaps even more consequential triumph he had in his first term. The Telegraph did a lengthly interview with Colin Powell in which he recalled:
"Everyone was telling me one weekend in 2002 [Jan 12-13] that there'd be war between India and Pakistan, and some in the intelligence community said the war would start that weekend. I said that's not going to happen. They're not nuts: we're talking to them and we'll find a way through this, and we did. Now, there's still Kashmir, but they play soccer matches together."
People forget that just three short years ago the world was poised on the brink of nuclear war and that the Bush diplomatic team, headed by Secretary Powell, resolved the conflict and did so in such a way that both of the antagonists, India and Pakistan, are now committed to resolving their differences peacefully and both are now allied with us in the greater war on terror.

You would think that "stopping World War III," as the Telegraph puts it, would have caught the public imagination, but it didn't. That stupendous accomplishment was overshadowed by Bush's Iraq adventure and all the negative commentary attached to it. I think that the reason was that Iraq fit comfortably into the journalistic stereotype of Bush as a rampaging, careless cowboy, impatient with and unwilling to undertake complex and delicate diplomacy, while resolution of the India/Pakistan standoff was obviously the product of just such diplomatic efforts and so contradicted the stereotype.

Clearly Bush and his team are capable of a wide range of responses. They can engage in sophisticated and nuanced diplomacy when appropriate, or they can forcefully break the shackles of diplomatic convention, or even undertake amazingly effective and controlled military action in situations where that is appropriate. The decision as to what tool to employ at what time and to what end ultimately rests with the President. So far Bush has demonstrated impeccable judgment and has rolled up a series of triumphs -- diplomatic and military that are as impressive as those achieved by any other president in our nation's history. It is time to start giving him and his policy team some credit.

Parenthetically, I wonder if one of those intelligence officials who were predicting imminent nuclear holocaust was Richard Clarke with his hair on fire.

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