Day By Day

Thursday, October 25, 2007

People Follow the Strong Horse

George W. Bush is the strong horse.

He has demonstrated it in Iraq, holding firm when things turned bad, adapting creatively to changing circumstances, and finding a military strategy that is winning the war. Most important, he did not cut and run when everyone expected him to do so. At home he has beaten back a determined assault by anti-war forces and inconstant allies, and now stands triumphant over his political foes. Congress will complain, but it will do as he wants.

Bush's strength has inspired confidence abroad and has changed the international political landscape. In Europe many of his former foes are now out of public life and have been replaced by pro-American leaders. In Iraq, former insurgents are now aligning themselves with the American military. In Afghanistan the Taliban, despite bold words and ruthless action, has not been able to make significant inroads against the pro-American regime and a recent public opinion poll shows that Afghanis overwhelmingly want the coalition troops to stay and crush the Taliban [here]. Now USA Today reports that in Pakistan the public is turning against the Islamist extremists [here].

Slowly but surely the tide is turning in Bush's favor, and the world is better for it.

What is interesting is the extent to which Bush's behavior in the current crisis shows significant similarities to that of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Lincoln's contribution to the war effort consisted for the most part of three things: 1) He held together a political coalition that sustained the war effort in the face of determined opposition from Democrats and public dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war, 2) he redefined American war aims to include an expansion of freedom and compassionate treatment of foes, and 3) rather than despairing in the face of military reverses he responded creatively to changing circumstances and eventually put together a team of leaders who designed and pursued a winning strategy.

Bush, who has read extensively on the subject of Lincoln's leadership, has performed in comparable ways and has suffered abuse not unlike that heaped upon his great predecessor. In the end Lincoln's greatness was recognized. I suspect that at sometime in the future George W. Bush too will be seen as a great liberator.