The Legacy of Iraq: Will the United States Leave With Honour or Stupidity

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The worldwide media is speculating as to what the Bush administration will do next. The general tone of the guesswork is this: just how dumb are these people?

So widespread is the belief that the United States is run by idiots, we feel compelled to rush to their defence. They are morons, maybe… but not idiots.

There are two major parts to the administration’s program: deficit spending and war. Either one would be ruinous in itself. But what is remarkable is that neither seems to take any notice of the other. Normally, in times of war, the whole budget is put toward winning it. Citizens see the necessity of sacrifice. They cinch up their own belts and resign themselves to living lean until the battles are over and the boys come home.

But this war breaks all the rules. Spending on non-war items continues to go up, even though the war itself is incredibly expensive. And even though the nation lacks the money to pay for it, no ‘war bonds’ are being offered. No collections for scrap tin or iron are taken up. No ration tickets are distributed.

Guns or butter, Lyndon Johnson was warned. You can have one or the other, but try to go for both and you will make a mess of things. Of course, Johnson did try for both. His Great Society was also the society that was trying to kick butt in Vietnam. As it turned out, it got its own butt kicked…and the economy went into the worst period of inflation in its history, followed by the worst recession since the Great Depression.

The Bush boys knew these facts as well as us. Even better known, since Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney have been Capitol Hill insiders since the Nixon Administration… and hardly a major blunder in Washington has been committed since the 1970s without their help.

The war in Iraq was such an obvious error. The French said it wouldn’t work. Maggie Thatcher said she’d have no part of it. Even we saw the calamity coming. As far as we can tell, only three groups come out ahead: Osama bin Laden, who now has the Great Satan pinned down in the Middle East where it is wasting its resources while radicalising Muslim youth; the Israelis, who now have the United States just where they want it (if anyone wants to destroy Israel now, they’ll have to do it over the U.S.’s dead body); and U.S. defence contractors, who are making off with a fortune in war booty.

Still, the Bush Administration is not so dumb. It knows that there’s more to life than just peace and prosperity. There’s also glory… and buffoonery. Who would remember Caesar if he had merely done his job in Gaul… and then retired to grow turnips in a far-off Cisalpine village? Who would make a movie about Alexander, had the young man kept to his little empire in the Peloponnese? He might have lived to be an old man, bouncing grandchildren on his knee. He might have allowed his camp followers to stay at home… his farmers to fructify their land with the help of their sons… and his soldiers to die from old age. His people might have sung his praises for what… a generation or two? Instead, by daring… by taking the bold action… he made a place for himself in history. Cities were named for him (one of them next to Washington, D.C., no less)… mothers named their boys after him… poets took his name to describe their verses. And what’s more, he’s the lead character in a major Hollywood movie!

No… the Bush administration is not just plain stupid. It is stupid in a more complex way. Will it now turn its stupidity on Iran? We don’t know. It would be a very stupid thing to do. But put that way, it sounds like a certainty.

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning Australia

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Best-selling investment author Bill Bonner is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, one of the world's most successful consumer newsletter companies. Owner of both Fleet Street Publications and MoneyWeek magazine in the UK, he is also author of the free daily e-mail The Daily Reckoning.
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