Defining Dubya

An old friend, who considers herself a liberal, asked why I classified W as one. It really seemed batty to her although she could see that the “big spender” label would apply. My reply (somewhat edited):

He’s a liberal because he thinks he’s called on to reconstruct things to bring about a universal order in which the basic public standards are satisfaction of people’s preferences and equality of some sort, and the public ideals are therefore freedom, democracy, security, nondiscrimination, general prosperity, and economic opportunity, to be attained through some combination of world markets and regulatory bureaucracies.

I think people count him as a non-liberal because:

  1. He thinks of the ultimate world ideal as a sort of America writ large rather than UN or EU writ large.
  2. He emphasizes force over agreement and judicial and scientific expertise in creating and securing the universal order of things that is to be constructed.
  3. He seems to allow some sort of public role for religion although it’s pretty vague and seems to be mostly sentimental, rhetorical and opportunistic.
  4. He emphasizes economic opportunities and freedoms—the freedom to make money by trying to make money—more than cultural and lifestyle freedoms or equality of result. Also, he likes business more than various government institutions in creating prosperity and opportunity even though he is after all a big government guy.

All in all, I think what distinguishes him from people called liberals is that he has a more forcible, concrete and crude way of thinking than at least an ideal liberal would have. Also, people think he’s personally attached to big business and so on instead of say big unions like the teachers union. It’s not such a big difference of ultimate theory though. He’s certainly not the kind of guy who’s going to have a general theory of things that’s different from the general theory people accept in the world around him.

5 thoughts on “Defining Dubya”

  1. Additional evidence that
    Additional evidence that Bush is a liberal is his faith in limited war for unlimited objectives.

    There is really no evidence from history or human nature to justify the practice of war as it is being carried out in Iraq. Military force is not a fine-tuned instrument, to be turned up one day and down the next, in hopes of changing another culture’s behavior.

    War is a primitive, almost atavistic behavior which is nevertheless closely bound up with our species. It follows rules which are reasonably clear from history.

    Our enemies are undefeated. They are undefeated because we have refused to defeat them, SO THAT THEY WILL NOT THINK BADLY OF US.

    If that’s not liberalism writ large, I don’t know what is.

    • gokart,
      Bush justifies the


      Bush justifies the facts as you describe them with his belief that democratization has magical powers and is itself self-justifying. Therefore, there is no need to defeat anyone, except perhaps Hussein and his group. According to the administration’s liberal cosmology, democracy and freedom are universal, irrefutable values and longings and justify themselves by their mere assertion.

      Notice how vague, ambiguous concepts—“democracy,” “freedom,” etc.—are reified into a magical potion that somehow has transformative power in any social or political setting (the power is universal), much like a physical force or phenomena such as gravity or inertia. This is messianic stuff (liberalism reduced to simple-mindedness and taken to the extreme of delusion).

      Thus, the US did not anticipate an insurgency, and has no plan to defeat any insurgency (How or why would anyone resist the universal, earthly paradise of democracy and freedom?). Insurgency therefore creates massive cognitive dissonance, denial, dissembling, malignant optimism, and rigidity.

      The cynical or the hard-headed “realist” say no US administration could be this stupid, and therefore its talk of democratization is just a cover story, that the US is in Iraq simply to be there (have a “presence” in the region) or to take control of oil resources, and has zero interest in Iraq and what happens to Iraq.

    • The Undefeated
      Dear Gokart and Fellow Readers,

      One point I think you are trying to make is limited warfare is fantasy. I agree history teaches that to release the dogs of war is an entirely unpredictable action. History also teaches that to think the dogs’ toes will be the only casualties is just goofy.

      Bush should believe in limited warfare insofar as nuclear weapons are concerned. But I agree he does not need nuclear weapons to defeat the people that want to die. He needs to just do it. Infuriating as it is, he is a crude thinker that is listening to a moronic panel of generals. The evidence was revealed last month when an unprecedented number of generals publicly criticized Bush’s strategy.

      And don’t underestimate the transcendental knowledge of traditionalists, conservatives, and Bushites who have been expressing their thought that Bush’s strategy will not be decisive.

      Traditionalists recognize these events as a phase of the conflict between Christianity and Islam. Conservatives recognize Bush is sacrificing our soldiers for some amalgam of self-protection and vague democratization ideology. Bushites see their party defeated this fall, which is guaranteed unless some major victory is attained in the war on Islam and on Mexico.

      Paul Henri

  2. The Crude Bush
    Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

    I agree Bush has a crude way of thinking. He could be tied to the idea that if only we had supported the South Vietnamese to the bitter end, there would be a divided Vietnam today. There have been writers that said the South Vietnamese were potent warriors capable of defeating the North, but they lost because the Congress cut off all funding. Who knows?

    We do know the South was a basket case for decades and required the French and American nipples. Speaking of nipples, the cowardly Iraqis require endless American-only convoy deaths (am I inaccurate?). Similarly, the South Vietnamese required endless American deaths.

    So Johnson, Nixon, and Ford refused to use decisive military power in Vietnam because of a fear that is inexplicable and used crude attrition warfare. Bush refuses likewise. He uses attrition warfare, crude warfare, rather than maneuver or decisive action as a Patton or a Rommel would have done. Decisive military action in Iraq and Vietnam is the permanent establishment of an enormous kill zone which only high-tech weaponry could threaten. The high-tech suppliers could then be targeted and would not issue the weaponry but instead would agree to a truce, which is always available. These American Presidents violated the principles of “in for a penny, in for a pound” and “war is no toe in the water behavior.”

    And Iraq is so much a simpler situation. No superpower exists except the U.S., which can still destroy every nuclear power at one time. But nuclear weapons should not even be on the U.S. table (except as retaliation against nuclear weapons). A permanent kill zone in Iraq or Southern Iran or both would be an excellent end to the daily American deaths. If Islamic nuts really want to die en masse, that is a good fit with American power. But Bush is a reactor not a military man, a leader, or a visionary. He has a crude mind.

    Paul Henri

  3. More Crudeness
    Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

    Bush’s crude thinking has entered the scene again. On June 22, 2003, former Clinton Secretary of Defense William Perry said in the liberal Washington Post that the U.S. should launch a pre-emptive cruise missile strike against North Korea’s planned testing of a ballistic missile that could hit the U.S. Today former Vice-President Walter Mondale, a liberal, called for the strike.

    Yet Bush has merely placed on alert new missile interceptors in Alaska and California. You can bet, if you had been a fly on the wall of the decisive meeting, Bush jumped at that suggestion with both feet; he cannot deal mentally with N.K. at this time. To fill in the details, Bush’s possible plan is to intercept and to destroy the missile in space after the N. Koreans have gained vital data about the missile’s reliability. This is like waiting for the bully to take a swing at you before doing anything; one does not give the bully the vital information about his effectiveness before a pre-emptive nose strike. And Bush has the big hand by far and does not realize it. N.K. could not touch the U.S. for the foreseeable future if only he would act; so the inaction is inexplicable.

    Bush could react more aggressively if he did not have so much on his plate (plenty of which he loaded up with by leading the Mexican invasion and by using poor tactics in Iraq). He cannot handle serious, multiple issues at one time. He is fixated on Iraq and leading the takeover of the U.S. by Mexico. So he disregards the will of his Party and of the American people. He would rather enjoy the nice weather near Austin, Texas with his fellow Mexicans.

    “This is a hard measure for President Bush to take. . . . Creative diplomacy might have avoided the need to choose between these two unattractive alternatives.” Indeed.

    Paul Henri


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