Thank God Bush Wasn't President During the Cold War

11/16/2005 02:05 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The only solace I have about the Bush presidency is that it could have been worse. Not in their actions, it’s hard to conceive of an administration so thoroughly wrong so frighteningly often. But if you want a real scary thought, think about the idea of Bush being President during the Cold War.

I can see it now:

Stalin is a terrible dictator. He has an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction unlike anything the world has ever seen. He has torture chambers, rape rooms and gulags. He hates freedom. He suppresses his own people. He supports evil-doers. We have to fight him over there before we fight him over here!

How quickly would W. have called for a preemptive strike against the Soviet Union? Stalin makes Saddam look like a Boy Scout. Under this administration’s logic, if Truman, Eisenhower … Reagan cared about protecting the American people, they would have struck at the Soviet Union before they had a chance to strike against us with their WMD. And they actually had WMD!

Now imagine Bush during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Do any of you have any doubt that he would have started World War III? Kennedy was tough but reflective. He paused and gave Khrushchev a chance to back down. He never ordered air strikes against Cuba. He considered a preemptive strike and turned it down. Bush would have gone in guns blazing and that would have been the end of us all.

Just because someone is a terrible dictator doesn’t mean the only solution is war. The United States proved brilliantly with the Soviet Union that sometimes containment is the best strategy. We contained them for half a century. No matter how wrong or how evil they were, we did not invade. We were right.

It didn’t mean we didn’t care about the suffering of the people behind the Iron Curtain. It didn’t mean we wanted to coddle the Soviet Union. It didn’t mean we didn’t want to get rid of the Soviet Union or have regime change. It just meant that war wasn’t the right answer in that case. Conservatives seem to have forgotten this lesson. War is not the only possible strategy.

I though the Persian Gulf War and the Afghanistan War were necessary evils. But just because you think war might be the right strategy in one instance, doesn’t mean you think it’s right in all instances. Anyone who lives in that kind of black and white existence isn’t mentally equipped to handle the complexities of the real world.

Finally, imagine George W. Bush with his finger on the button throughout the whole Cold War. It gives me a chill down my spine.

But what is equally chilling is that he has finger on the button right now. The Pentagon has put together plans for a preemptive nuclear strike against Iran and North Korea. It is called CONPLAN 8022. If you want a good scare, read this article about the plan in the Washington Post.

And then, if you’re not scared enough, read about how the Bush administration plans a formal change in US policy to allow for preemptive nuclear strikes. There is already a plan for the different scenarios in which we might carry out a first-use nuclear strike. This plan is called “Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations.”

In some ways, this is scarier than the Cold War. Back then, we made sure to elect Presidents who wouldn’t be crazy enough to launch first. We made sure we had leaders who wouldn’t start nuclear wars.

Are any of you positive that a cornered George Bush wouldn’t pull the trigger to divert attention from his troubles and rally the country behind him again in a time of war?

We might be saying in hindsight: Could you imagine a worse time for Bush to be president than after 9/11 when he had a perfect excuse to wage all those wars and launch all those weapons?