The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Bush's second favorite historian

Although the recent reports that the White House couldn't get enough of fawning right-wing nutjob, possible white supremacist, and hack historian Andrew Roberts were par for the course (especially in light of his tendency to laud Bush as a brilliant military strategist), I was surprised to learn that Fearless Leader also likes the work of another historian-- who, while an avowed conservative, isn't an American conservative. Ergo, prone to intellectual honesty. And guess what? While Bush apparently thinks his book on the French-Algerian conflict is fabulous, he's "misremembering" the facts and drawing all the wrong conclusions.

Horne then sprung another one of his now-familiar sly rhetorical questions. "Do you think we were enticed into Iraq by Osama bin Laden?"

I replied that Horne had pointed out in his book that it was Insurgency 101 to use terror to make your adversary respond with such disproportionate force that the population goes over to you. "I think we gave him a gift beyond his wildest dreams," I said.

"Yes, we always assume that our adversaries are stronger than they really are," Horne said. "Except when it comes to Germany. Osama is rubbing his hands in glee. Everything's going his way."

I asked Horne how he would rate the Iraq episode historically? One Israeli historian, Martin van Creveld, said that Iraq was "the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them."

Horne laughed. "Chou en-Lai was asked what he thought of the French Revolution and he said, 'It's a bit too early to say.' I think it's too early to say about Iraq. A tactical disaster, yes. Strategic -- maybe. What I worry about, and I don't know if this is a strategic or a policy disaster, is that we're fighting the wrong war in the wrong place."

What would be the right war in the right place? "I think I would have kept out of Iraq altogether and used special operations to track down al-Qaida," Horne said.

Also worth noting is that Horne thinks leaders shouldn't remain in power when they're demonstrably either "lying or incompetent." A man after my own heart.