Civil Discourse #1
I have ongoing discussions with a very good Republican/conservative friend who I have known for close to 20 years now. The last couple days we have been discussing via facebook the action against bin Laden. I think it has been a beneficial engagement and he has given me permission to share it on this blog. For professional reasons he needs to remain anonymous, so he will go by the moniker “TR” (thinking Republican or Teddy Roosevelt, your choice of meaning:) ). If you are interested in these types of discussions, reach me at facebook and we could have one as well. Hopefully, TR and I will have more of these to share as well.
TR: Greg, I am impressed with Obama in this. It showed wisdom (in planning, strategy, tactics, etc.), resolve, courage (it could have gone wrong) and strength in the face of the world. He really is much different than I understood him in the campaign. In fact, he completely changed on the war front as soon as he took office. I chalk that up to seeing something in the briefings that made him change no matter what the political cost. We have a great country, don't we? I mean, it is really messed up on some key principles like the unborn but, it still has a greatness worthy of gratitude to God.
Greg: I agree with you, though I see more continuity between candidate and president, at least in regard to the willingness to go after bin laden in Pakistan. As I see the reaction of many on the Left it makes even clearer to me that he is in the " vital center" that great presidents draw renewal from.
TR: I like him in the center. He should stay there even after the election. It was good for Clinton. It was good for Bush after him. It was good for the country. Two things really strike me about the war on terror: one is how similar Bush and Obama really are about it. (Again, I think those briefings must be harrowing. Obama continued Bush's war policies though he ran against them in the campaign.) Two, how much we as a country have adapted and grown in our prowess, awareness and seriousness. Rick Atkinson says that Americans BEGIN their wars badly but learn and adapt quickly. I am proud of our president. I was proud of Bush and didn't buy the smearing of his every move. The two Bush's, Clinton and now Obama have brought important pieces to the tapestry that is our world and our country. I am grateful for God giving us these guys. We should pray more for holders of this office and complain less.
Greg: Well said, especially on the praying!! I think these people face enormous pressures, expectations and temptations. I felt tremendously good about the way Bush started the effort to break up Al Quaeda, dismantle the Taliban, challenge Paksitan, increase intelligence sharing, utilize technology and get Osama. I think that there is tremendous continuity on those core terrorism issues that have always received the strong support of the American people and indeed the international community. Where I just have to part company is with what became Bush's broader "War on Terror"--I do believe that the Iraq War was profoundly damaging to the consensus around and focus on the core issues I listed above and that the break between Obama and Bush on that was genuine and important, while acknowledging that the difference there clouded the substantial agreement on what I believed and believe are the decisive aspects of a successful post-9/11 vision.
TR: Regarding Iraq, I agree that it turned out to be a bad deal. I am convinced that the president and the members of congress from both parties were for going to war because of really bad intel. I don't blame anyone for that. When we went in we found that Saddam's missile program was on schedule...it was the only part of the WMD that was on schedule. The other three areas were the result of his chiefs lying to him to save their lives. I think we learned a lot, though, in spite of our mistakes.
Greg: It would fit well with my reconciling instincts to agree with you that Iraq was an honest mistake, but my reading into the neo conservative mindset that led to their obsession with Iraq will not let me go there. I think Bush's shallowness betrayed him and allowed him to be swayed by people with a far bigger agenda than the war on terror. And again, it has to be said that Obama was a leader from the start against the war in Iraq and against the idea that it would in any way help with the war on terror. You must read Angler to grasp how Bush lost control of his administration and lost his connection to the "vital center". The WMD was truly a smokescreen for the deeper goals of the neoconservatives in the administration, and I don't think it is a smear on Bush to say so (though I certainly agree there were plenty of smears on him). Here is the link to the book and here is the link to the Pulitzer prize winning series that was the basis for the book.