It’s hard these days to keep up with the big picture. Always has been to some extent I suppose. Look at the various global fundie groups, still stuck in the Middle Ages. That includes plenty of Christians and Jews, just to be clear. Change is especially true in the case of the USA, where in a few short years the USA has gone from being doomed by peak oil, to being on the top of the heap again because of fracking. Shortly the USA will be an oil exporting nation again, something that a few years ago would have been regarded as a joke.
Good news, right? Not really. It’s as if Spain in the 18th century, after pissing away the fabulous wealth they looted from the new world, discovered the world’s greatest gold deposits just outside of Madrid. Not sure what would have happened, but it more than likely would have involved Spain raising huge armies. (That’s what they did with their New World bonanza.) The world would be a different place now, we might even be speaking Spanish in the USA. For make no mistake, the world’s greatest and in some ways only, frackable oil deposits, are all in North America. In other words, the USA will more than likely spend this new found wealth on armies and foreign adventures.
Yeah, yippee kay yay. So this brings me to the point of this post, all else aside, the ability of the US president to be a war leader is going to be pivotal in how all this all plays out. For those who are unversed in military history, the ability of historical figures to lead and inspire armies varies wildly. It’s not an easy job. Few do it well, most get high marks just for avoiding absolute calamity. Most people are incapable of assessing these sorts of skills. Here then is my semi-expert opinion on the war leader skills of recent US presidents.
Jimmy Carter: He was only commander-in-chief for one military operation that I recall, Operation Eagle Claw. This was the attempt to rescue the American hostages held in Iran after the Iranian revolution. It was a micro-managed fiasco from the get go, and the only blessing is that they didn’t even make to to Tehran, where if they had stayed true to form, it wold have made the Blackhawk Down incident look like a picnic. I like Jimmy Carter, but as a war leader he’s a fail. I rate him a D-.
Reagan: Well, he was more a figurehead president than an actual president, and there wasn’t a lot going on during his terms aside from the beginning of the “borrow and spend” era of American government. He did have the guts to pull out of Lebanon after the Marine Barracks bombing, instead of going on a multi-trillion dollar revenge spree. And there’s no doubt he would have given very inspiring speeches if there had been an actual war. He certainly gets at least a B grade in my opinion, we could do a lot worse when it comes to war presidents.
Bush I: Sound and fury signifying nothing, the Bonnie Prince Charlie of war presidents. He managed to win a war that he couldn’t possibly lose, Gulf War One, and accomplished exactly nothing in the process. Other than inspiring the creation of Al-Qaeda, something that oft gets overlooked in his bio. His record in World War Two was uninspiring as well. Frankly I think the man was a coward who led like a coward, it was no surprise to me that he didn’t get re-elected even after his great” victory over Iraq. There were also some terrible war crimes committed on his watch, which matters to me. The only positive thing I can say about his war record was that all sorts of people noticed how he suddenly got all presidential and inspiring when Kuwait was invaded. Yeah, if it takes a war to get the president enthusiastic about his job, he’s a crappy president. I give him a D as a war leader.
Clinton: Sigh. Well, the man was a draft evader, which speaks volumes to me. At least a draft dodger is honest about what they are doing. What can I say, the man managed to commit terrible war crimes without actually fighting any wars. There’s not a whole lot else to go on, but he was an effective manager in other realms. I’m pegging him as a C, there’s easily better and worse war presidents. He wouldn’t be inspiring, but at least he might get the job done.
Bush II: What can I say, I rank him as one of the most catastrophically bad war leaders in American history. His reaction to 9/11 was cowardly in the extreme, one of the most hysterical over-reactions in history. Just his reaction when informed the nation was under attack speaks volumes. He managed to launch two of the stupidest wars in American history, and acted with almost comic buffoonery after his “great victory” over Saddam. His only accomplishment is that so many sheepified Americans actually thought he was some sort of inspiring war leader defending the country. Yes, he gets an F.
Well, a B, a C, two Ds and an F. No George Washingtons here. Plenty of room for debate and dissent I expect. Next post, Romney and the guy he’s running against! That will be fun.
(The above image is about as Public Domain as it gets, having been painted in 1851. It’s the famous “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. It’s filled with historical inaccuracies. And the original was destroyed in a British air raid in World War Two. I’m sure they weren’t too upset by that, the crossing was followed by the Battle of Trenton, a humiliating and history changing defeat for the British.)