May 17, 2005

Bush as Grand Strategist?

Roger L. Simon links this morning to a post by Chapomatic that gives the transcript of a fascinating speech by historian John Gaddis, given April 21 at Middlebury College. (Scroll down a bit in Chapomatic's post.) Gaddis, an eminent historian of the Cold War, wrote a book that was critical of the Bush Administration's foreign policy blunders, and as a result was ... called up on the phone by Condi Rice and enthustiastically invited to speak about his ideas to a group of the highest-level presidential advisors -- brought in to speak to Bush extensively in the Oval Office, and questioned intelligently by Bush -- privileged to hear the President of the United States tell all his top advisors to read the book.

Gaddis, while pulling no punches in criticizing specific bad moves of the administration, compares them with bad moves of previous administrations and finds the former to be no more hypocritical. Gaddis also concludes that Bush is essentially a pragmatist who, contrary to liberal opinion, is not averse to hearing dissenting views and learning from his mistakes. And Gaddis feels that Bush's mistakes have been made in pursuit of an important, admirable grand strategy.

Toward the end of the speech there's a detailed discussion of five major reasons why, in Gaddis' view, lack of academic training may be an advantage for a leader. The reasons are quite persuasive.

Recommended reading for liberals and centrists interested in learning about diverse views.