Sunday, October 31, 2004

Historians endorse President Bush

Believe it or not, there are a few professional historians who have dared to publicly endorse President Bush for re-election. To the surprise of none who have actually read here quite regularly, I will start off with one of my personal favorites, Victor Davis Hanson. Hanson essential argument is:
This election marks a similar crossroads in our history. We are presented with two radically different candidates with profound disagreements about how to conduct a historic worldwide war. We should remember that all our victorious past presidents were, at the moments of their crises, deeply unpopular precisely because they chose the difficult, long-term sacrifice for victory over the expedient and convenient pleas for accommodation (if not outright capitulation). We are faced with just such an option today: a choice between a president whose call for patience and sacrifice promises victory, and a pessimist stirring the people with the assurances that we should not have fought, and now cannot win, the present war in Iraq.

Our terrorist enemy has no uniforms or aircraft, but nevertheless struck at the very heart of our financial and political capitals in a fashion unimaginable by Nazi Germany, Tojo's Japan, or the Soviet Union. The Islamic fascists' creed is Hitlerian, their methodology primeval. Their aim is not mere territory: They want nothing less than the destruction of Western freedom, through the takeover of the Middle East and the use of its petroleum wealth to craft a nuclear, global caliphate, Dark Aged in its values, 21st-century in its lethality.

This war against Islamic fascism is now a quarter-century old, and began with the Iranian seizure of the American embassy in 1979; the apex of this escalating assault — owing to past American neglect and appeasement — was September 11. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and John Kerry — so unlike their Democratic predecessors FDR, Harry Truman, and John Kennedy — have seen the struggle not as one for national survival, but at best as the lamentable dividend of inequality or poverty, and at worst as the felonious behavior of a few miscreants who seem to eat, sleep, and bank in the upper air rather than in the houses and streets of real countries. Thus arose John Kerry's revealing use of "sensitive" and "nuisance" to suggest that we need to return either to writs and indictments or the occasional cruise missile — i.e., the status quo before the world changed on 9/11.

The reaction of George W. Bush could not be more different. He accepts the conflict as a global war of ideas against states that harbor terrorists. He recognizes it as a struggle that involves millions in the Middle East, people who will reluctantly join bullying fascists should they have any premonitions of American inaction (much less defeat or Madrid-style capitulation). Bush's aim is not merely to defeat the terrorists today, but to eradicate them and isolate their supporters through a bold tripartite strategy. It is as breathtakingly simple as it is logical: kill or capture the al-Qaeda purveyors of death; end renegade regimes, such as the Taliban or Saddam Hussein's Iraq, that have a long history of subsidizing terrorists; and promote democratic reform in the Middle East. The push for such liberalization rests on the theory that democracies rarely go to war against their own kind — and, more important, that democracies marginalize religious extremists internally by free discussion over, and collective responsibility for, solving national problems.

By any historical standard, the Bush doctrine is working. In just over three years, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein have been eradicated. Consensual societies are starting to emerge in their place. Syria and Iran are jittery, fearing new global scrutiny over their longstanding, but heretofore excused, terrorist sympathies. Libya and Pakistan have flipped, renouncing much of their past villainy. Saudi Arabia and the other autocracies of the Gulf region feel the new pressure of American idealism. For all their vocal resentment, strategically critical sheikdoms are inching toward political reform and terrorist-hunting.
According to Hanson, President Bush has three problems this election year:
First, this is an election year in the postmodern age. Two- and three-minute media streams from the battlefield are delivered with amateurish editorializing in real time to American living rooms, and are then recycled as political soundbites. Given both the wealth and security of American society, and the spectacular ability of our military to defeat enemies at minimal costs, Americans have come to claim as their birthright automatic victory without casualties....Second, the president's forte is direct action and singular resolve, not Churchillian oratory. Yet because of the stealthy nature of our enemy — and owing to decades of multiculturalism, utopian pacifism, and moral equivalence in our schools and popular culture — the American people are confused about the nature of the enemy. Are we really threatened with another 9/11? Cannot allies and aid preclude our further military action? Are we overreacting, captive to religious, racial, or cultural chauvinism? Does war ever solve problems? Bush must remind Americans almost daily that the threat is real, that we are winning a necessary war, and that the outlook is bright. And he must do so in such a fashion as to drown out far more glib legions of political junkies, National Public Radio "experts," the New York Times, and most of Hollywood.

Third, after the meteoric rise of Howard Dean's boutique antiwar campaign in the Democratic primary season, both John Kerry and John Edwards retracted their prior Trumanesque bipartisan support of the war. Instead they sensed political capital in equating daily images of Americans killed with everything from alleged Halliburton profiteering to tax cuts for the wealthy. Their efforts have been energized by millions of dollars in third-party contributions, and sensationalized by the American elite in the arts, universities, and media, who are as culturally influential as they are politically weak and envious.
As far as Kerry, Hanson believes that electing him as President would be "an unmitigated disaster." (Read his piece for why).

Another historian who has endorsed President Bush is Paul Johnson. Johnson believes President Bush was the right man at the right time.
There is something grimly admirable about his stoicism in the face of reverses, which reminds me of other moments in history: the dark winter Washington faced in 1777-78, a time to “try men’s souls,” as Thomas Paine put it, and the long succession of military failures Lincoln had to bear and explain before he found a commander who could take the cause to victory. There is nothing glamorous about the Bush presidency and nothing exhilarating. It is all hard pounding, as Wellington said of Waterloo, adding: “Let us see who can pound the hardest.” Mastering terrorism fired by a religious fanaticism straight from the Dark Ages requires hard pounding of the dullest, most repetitious kind, in which spectacular victories are not to be looked for, and all we can expect are “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” However, something persuades me that Bush— with his grimness and doggedness, his lack of sparkle but his enviable concentration on the central issue—is the president America needs at this difficult time.

He has, it seems to me, the moral right to ask American voters to give him the mandate to finish the job he has started.

This impression is abundantly confirmed, indeed made overwhelming, when we look at the alternative. Senator Kerry has not made much of an impression in Europe, or indeed, I gather, in America. Many on the Continent support him, because they hate Bush, not because of any positive qualities Kerry possesses. Indeed we know of none, and there are six good reasons that he should be mistrusted.(Read the rest to find out.)
Johnson is an Englishman, and offers insight into the world-wide cause of Bush-hating.
I don’t recall any occasion, certainly not since the age of FDR, when so much partisan election material has been produced by intellectuals of the Left, not only in the United States but in Europe, especially in Britain, France, and Germany. These intellectuals—many of them with long and lugubrious records of supporting lost left-wing causes, from the Soviet empire to Castro’s aggressive adventures in Africa, and who have in their time backed Mengistu in Ethiopia, Qaddafi in Libya, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua—seem to have a personal hatred of Bush that defies rational analysis.

Behind this front line of articulate Bushicides (one left-wing columnist in Britain actually offered a large sum of money to anyone who would assassinate the president) there is the usual cast of Continental suspects, led by Chirac in France and the superbureaucrats of Brussels. As one who regularly reads Le Monde, I find it hard to convey the intensity of the desire of official France to replace Bush with Kerry. Anti- Americanism has seldom been stronger in Continental Europe, and Bush seems to personify in his simple, uncomplicated self all the things these people most hate about America—precisely because he is so American. Anti-Americanism, like anti-Semitism, is not, of course, a rational reflex. It is, rather, a mental disease, and the Continentals are currently suffering from a virulent spasm of the infection, as always happens when America exerts strong and unbending leadership.

Behind this second line of adversaries there is a far more sinister third. All the elements of anarchy and unrest in the Middle East and Muslim Asia and Africa are clamoring and praying for a Kerry victory. The mullahs and the imams, the gunmen and their arms suppliers and paymasters, all those who stand to profit—politically, financially, and emotionally—from the total breakdown of order, the eclipse of democracy, and the defeat of the rule of law, want to see Bush replaced. His defeat on November 2 will be greeted, in Arab capitals, by shouts of triumph from fundamentalist mobs of exactly the kind that greeted the news that the Twin Towers had collapsed and their occupants been exterminated.

I cannot recall any election when the enemies of America all over the world have been so unanimous in hoping for the victory of one candidate. That is the overwhelming reason that John Kerry must be defeated, heavily and comprehensively.

Indeed, the old axiom that said you could determine a man's character by the nature of his friends seems entirely correct in this case.

Daniel Pipes is another historian endorsing the President and he makes the argument that John Kerry is a "9/10" person despite his ofttimes hawkish rhetoric. (This endorsement is no surprise as Pipes was selected by President to serve on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Institute of Peace.)

I'll keep my eyes pealed out for more. It tells you the dire situation the History field is in when I can only find three, huh?
UPDATE: I've done some more digging and found another historian that supports President Bush, Thomas C. Reeves. (I also suspect that Gertrude Himmelfarb may be a Bush supporter, but have no proof.)

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