Inspired by this incredibly silly post, I thought I’d recommend an old but prescient article from Ross Douthat on the all-but-inevitable recovery of Bush’s foreign policy reputation. It is staggering to think that a President who embroiled the nation in one of the most irresponsible wars in our history would live to see the rehabilitation of his legacy, but time, it seems, softens the memory and heals all wounds. Take it away, Rob Long:
If events in Tunisia have inspired events in Egypt, what inspired the events in Tunisia?
Hard to say, of course. But perhaps a small nod and a tip of the hat is due to the diabolical neo-cons, and the naive president they conned into trying this absurd gamble on democracy.
Long is literally asserting causation between Tunisia’s nascent democratic movement and the invasion of Iraq. That’s it. I’d say more, but Douthat perfectly anticipated this development two years ago:
The Bush administration has often seemed bent on vindicating, in the short run and by force of arms, Francis Fukuyama’s famous long-term prediction that liberal democracy will ultimately triumph. Now Bush’s hopes for vindication depend on the Middle East’s following a gradual, Fukuyaman track toward free markets, democratic government, and the “end of history.” And just as crucially, they depend on American troops’ staying in Iraq for as long as it takes for that to happen. If these events come to pass—if the Iraq of 2038 or so is stable, democratic, and at peace with its neighbors, and if American troops have maintained a constant presence in the country—no one should be surprised to hear hawkish liberals as well as conservatives taking up the idea that George W. Bush deserves a great deal of the credit.
I do not mean to suggest that this is a likely outcome, or that it would be a just one. The cost of the Iraq War, in lives and dollars and squandered opportunities, ought to far outweigh the possibility that a long-term American presence might push the Middle East in a direction it was headed anyway. But when things work out in the long run—and especially when we can claim the credit—Americans tend to forgive their leaders for the crimes and errors of the moment.