That's what I tried to take in my column in this week's U.S. News, measuring George W. Bush's foreign policy against the national security strategy he set out in September 2002. Here's another long-view piece, in Thomas Barnett's blog, which takes a similar viewif in snappier prose. Barnett's terminology is from his books, which I've referenced before: The "core" is the functional, market-oriented, democratic part of the world; the "gap" is the nonfunctional, non-market-oriented, undemocratic part of the world, the part that spawns the Islamifascist terrorism we're fighting. Here's a map that shows the two regions. Extracts:
All superfluous comparisons aside, I think Bush has done history a huge help by setting all this in motion in the Middle East, no matter how opaque the rationales for invading Iraq were or how poorly we prepared ourselves for the second-half effort at waging peace. We've got the game board in motion, all right, with the key question now being how to keep things moving in such a way that we ultimately get what we want: a Middle East that opens itself up to the world and globalization.
Will that process be pretty? Sometimes yes, it will be quite thrilling, but many times no, for it will unleash a lot of social anger and age-old disputes. But again, either we speed the killing or we delay it, and I vote for speeding it because it keeps the violence overwhelmingly over there, where it belongs, along with all the social and economic and political change.
Ah, but what about all the deaths? Sad to say, the Iraq war/peace still hasn't cost us in combat deaths what we once lost on the beaches of Normandy in one June morning. Or what we lost in civilians on 9/11. That sort of sacrifice back in WWII defined a "greatest generation." Maybe we need to start valuing our loved ones lost with the same sort of historical perspectiveeven respectbecause their sacrifice is tilting world history for the better in no less important a manner.
In the end, then, I think history will judge this to be a very "good" war, one in which personal service and sacrifice resulted in significant positive change in the global security environment.
As for local deaths triggered, there we're also still in the historical weeds. If you want to locate real death totals, look to Africa. Hell, look to Sudan alone in the last three years. In that country alone we see deaths that make all the tumult in the Middle East seem quite small in comparison.
By the way, before you dismiss Barnett as an in-the-tank Bush cheerleader, you might want to take note that (as he told me) he voted for John Kerry in 2004. At the conclusion of my column, I predicted that Bush's successor, whoever she or he may be, will most likely continue to follow the national security strategy Bush set out in 2002, just as Harry Truman's successors continued to follow, with some variations, the strategy he set out in the Truman Doctrine in 1947 and NSC-68 in 1950. Barnett seems to agree, or at least to believe that she or he had better do so.