The Middle East is a tinderbox, much as the Balkans had been in 1914. For decades, the hatred between sects lay dormant, as it had been muzzled by tyrannical governments. Leaders in the Arab world kept a lid on dissension and freedom. George W. Bush believed, perhaps naively like Woodrow Wilson, that democracy was the answer. Mr. Wilson was an idealist, and I suspect Mr. Bush is too. It took two devastating wars and many years, but eventually democracy came to most of Europe. In time, one hopes democracy will come to the Middle East. If Mr. Bush and Mr. Wilson were guilty, it is because they underrated the roots and intensity of sectarian animus – religious and racial hatred that goes back generations.
On October 11, 2002, 70% of Congress authorized President Bush to use military force against Iraq. This was not a quick decision. More than a year had passed since the attack on 9/11. Nevertheless, reasonable people can disagree as to whether invading Iraq was the right thing to do, but any debate should be based on facts, not innuendos, or the re-writing of history. “Gotcha” questions serve only to “put a smile on the face of the tiger” that is asking the question.
In my opinion, it was not the invasion that was wrong; it was the mishandling of subsequent events. There was obviously little or no pre-planning as to how to work with an Iraq devoid of a leader that had been there twenty years. The “surge,” engineered by President Bush and General David Petraeus was successful, but it came three years late. Nevertheless it worked. Predictably, its success was wasted when the Obama Administration withdrew troops too quickly in 2011.
There are legitimate questions that the media should be asking regarding the Middle East and other hot spots. Where do the candidates stand in terms of defense? What do they see as the role of the U.S.? What path should the U.S. follow in a Middle East descending into chaos? What should we do about China’s growing military? What about North Korea? Where is the “red line” Putin must not cross, as he attempts to reassemble the Russian Empire? Where does the candidate stand in regard to our allies, specifically Israel, the Baltic States, Japan and those in East Asia?
While we learn from history, it cannot (and should not) be altered to fit an agenda. Every experience effects how we respond to the next. In terms of Megyn Kelly’s question, one could as well ask every divorced person, everyone who has been in an accident – knowing what you know now, would you have married, would you have stayed home? Other than to raise her profile, consume oceans of ink and hours of air time, her question provided no revelations.
We live in dangerous times. When we allow 30-second sound-bites, twitter-feeds, slogans and hash-tags to be the source of our news, we are ill-informed. When we let newscasters with ulterior motives frame questions that do not allow insights into the minds, temperament and characters of those who would run our country, we become losers. Asking “what if” questions do not enlighten audiences. In the instance at the start of this essay, Megyn Kelly became as much the news as did Jeb Bush. Media and television revel in “stars.” They drive ratings; so we must live with them, but people should understand that the consequence of such newscasters – and there are more on the Left than on the Right – is a biased and ignorant consumer.
The Opinions expressed above are mine alone, and do not represent those of the firm Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co., Inc., or of any of its partners or employees.