War President Works Up Courage/Visits Rhode Island

I have read a lot of history, as have you. - President Bush, Thursday

You might have missed it, what with the Supreme Court resegregating the schools and Paris Hilton getting out of jail, but something really unprecedented happened this week: For the first time in his presidency, George W. Bush visited Rhode Island.

He's actually made more trips to Iraq.

(He only stayed 45 minutes, of course, and confined his sightseeing to a helicopter ride and a navy base. The only practical difference between a Bush visit to Newport and one to Baghdad was Air Force One could land with its lights on.)

(Also, after he left, the Quakers didn't start killing the Catholics. Maybe next time.)

Bush dropped in, to see what condition his condition was in, and to address the Naval War College. For the audience members playing the drinking game, the 9/11 references were:

1) "This is an ideological conflict we face against murderers and killers who try to impose their will. These are the people who attacked us on September 11th and killed nearly 3,000 people."

2)"Remember, when I mention al Qaeda, they're the ones who attacked the United States of America and killed nearly 3,000 on September the 11th, 2001."

3) "Al Qaeda is responsible for most sensational killings in Iraq. They're responsible for the sensational killing on U.S. soil, and they're responsible for the killings in Iraq."*

(*An allusion, not a direct reference. Take half a drink.)

4) "And what makes the war even more significant is that what happens overseas matters to the security of the United States of America, as we learned on September 11th, when killers were able to use a failed state to plot the deadly attack."


5) "September the 11th, we saw how a failed state, like I'd just told you, can affect the security at home."

I know this is going to sound partisan, but sometimes he comes across as a bozo.

He sounds like a lonely drunk in an empty bar who thinks if he says, "the Red Sox should have never traded Martinez" enough, someone will argue with him.

If your roommate talked about his girlfriend that much, you'd move.

Also, what does he imagine "failed state" means? We didn't like Afghanistan, but that doesn't make it a failed state. And weren't the hijackers from Saudi Arabia? Imagine if a Democratic politician called Saudi Arabia a failed state. Twice.

Some of the hijackers did some of their planning in Germany. Did Bush mean Germany is a failed state? They went to flight school in Florida. Is Florida a failed state? Is this some kind of dig at Jeb?


If you were a certain kind of indoorsman as a teenager, another part of Bush's speech might jump out at you. A shout-out to one of those historians he's read a lot of.

"More than a century ago, the president of this college wrote a book called The Influence of Sea Power Upon History. The book was read by Theodore Roosevelt. It affected American strategic thinking for decades to come. Now we're in a new and unprecedented war against Islamic extremists... September 11th... 3000 people... Chug!"

If you weren't cool like me, and popular, and at parties all the time, you might have read something where Barbara Tuchman called Alfred Thayer Mahan the Clausewitz of the sea, or something like that, and you might have slogged through The Influence of Sea Power.

And you would have learned a lot about coaling. I mean, a lot. And also about how nothing was ever going to replace the battleship, which would have come as a surprise to the Japanese, when they came as a surprise to Pearl Harbor.

Comforting to hear that the President is getting his strategic thinking from 1890. Nice to know he's keeping up. If Spain tries to retake Cuba between now and the next election, we're all set.

Or maybe I'm just not seeing the big picture. Santayana said those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to be famous for fifteen minutes. Or something. Maybe Bush really did read The Influence of Sea Power. And maybe he can apply Mahan to Iraq.

How about:

"It was not possible to win a great victory while trying to maintain a show of force everywhere." Or:

"(They committed) one of the most common and flagrant violations of the principles of war, stretching a thin line, everywhere inadequate, over an immense frontier." Or: "America (w)as hopelessly lost, because no military subjection could have brought back the old loyalty." Or: "Undoubtedly the feeling of the nation was mistaken; pride, not wisdom, maintained that struggle."

Pride not wisdom. It's too bad Bush didn't spend a little longer in Newport. They could have painted it behind him on a banner.


Bush still hasn't been to Vermont. Do you think it's because there's no place to put the aircraft carrier?