Novelist Mark Helprin blames George W. Bush’s peculiar leadership deficiencies for frittering away the post-9/11 national and international consensus and allowing himself and US military efforts to be discredited by the left.
The administrations of George W. Bush have virtually assured such a displacement by catastrophically throwing the country off balance, both politically and financially, while breaking the nation’s sword in an inconclusive seven-year struggle against a ragtag enemy in two small bankrupt states. Their one great accomplishment — no subsequent attacks on American soil thus far — has been offset by the stunningly incompetent prosecution of the war. It could be no other way, with war aims that inexplicably danced up and down the scale, from “ending tyranny in the world,” to reforging in a matter of months (with 130,000 troops) the political culture of the Arabs, to establishing a democracy in Iraq, to only reducing violence, to merely holding on in our cantonments until we withdraw.
This confusion has come at the price of transforming the military into a light and hollow semi-gendarmerie focused on irregular warfare and ill-equipped to deter the development and resurgence of the conventional and strategic forces of China and Russia, while begging challenges from rivals or enemies no longer constrained by our former reserves of strength. For seven years we failed to devise effective policy or make intelligent arguments for policies that were worth pursuing. Thus we capriciously forfeited the domestic and international political equilibrium without which alliances break apart and wars are seldom won.