THE BLOG

The Bush Administration Meets Pre-9/11 Thinking

05/25/2011 12:00 pm ET

For five years, ever since, oh, 9/12/2001, the President and his minions have lambasted Democrats - indeed anyone who didn't agree with him - for having "Pre-9/11 Thinking."

And now, after burying the nation in a disastrous war of epic proportions with no way out, we finally see the result of the vaunted Republican "Post-9/11 Thinking" on how to resolve the quagmire:

Republicans await the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group - headed by James Baker. Former Chief of Staff to Ronald Reagan.

Republicans have brought back from Purgatory a new Senate Minority Whip - Trent Lott. Former disgraced Majority Leader during Clinton Administration.

Republicans have nominated as new Secretary of Defense - Robert Gates. Former CIA director under George HW Bush. That's the first George Bush.

And throughout this entire debacle, the White House has been advised by - Henry Kissinger. Former Secretary of State to Richard Nixon. Who oversaw the ending of the earlier war debacle of Vietnam. Back for the sequel.

Also being asked to help to figure a way out of Iraq are, of course - Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Former Secretaries of Defense to that first George Bush and Gerald Ford.

And while waiting for the Iraq Study Group recommendations, it's worth noting that this bipartisan committee includes Lawrence Eagleburger (former Secretary of State to George HW Bush, 41), and Edwin Meese (former Attorney General to Ronald Reagan).

None of this is to suggest that Republicans should be dealing only with people whose sole experience in public life starts five years ago. It's merely to observe that the holier-than-thou puffery against "Pre-9/11 Thinking" is but one more boondoggle the Republican Administration has been foisting on the American public with problematic results.

None of this is to suggest, either, that any of these hoped-for saviors will, in fact, help the Republicans out of this quicksand they created. After all, for many of these experts their expertise for problem-solving lies more on the side of building Rubik's Cubes rather than figuring out how to get the colors lined up properly.

Maybe they will finally come up with a solution. It's the fondest wish of a nation. It's just that you know you're in an uphill battle when those in charge not only didn't learn the lessons of Vietnam, but are trying to finally win it, 35 years later.

Henry Kissinger has been advising the President! No wonder Mr. Bush thinks the lesson of Vietnam is "We'll succeed unless we quit."

For all those willing to dismiss Mr. Bush's National Guard exploits as the mere transgressions of youth, this is what comes of spending your college years getting drunk, having your father get you a plush deferment, presumably going AWOL and then claiming you're a War President.

Skipping class, having substance abuse problems and acting irresponsibly are indeed transgressions of youth. And if you're going to end up managing a Burger King, or even running Harken Oil, that's okay. But to have to cram on basic History 101 before leading a nation into war just doesn't cut it.

Given that Mr. Bush went to especially-great lengths to avoid Vietnam, you'd think he'd understand first-hand the really big lesson of not getting involved in the war in the first place.

The truth is that when George Bush tosses off such advice as "the world that we live in today is one where they want things to happen immediately" - you wish more that it wasn't only Vietnam he'd learned the lessons of, but Iraq, as well. Because no one who had the slightest grasp of Iraq - which has had warring between the Sunnis and Shiites for at least 600 years - would ever have though this was a place where things would happen "immediately." Where the mission would be accomplished within a week of shocking and awing anyone. Where we would be met with flowers and candy simply by wandering down Main Street after deposing their leader.

Then again, anyone who supposes that the only thinking worth considering is that which came after September 11, 2001, is someone who would never been expected to understand the lessons of history, let alone care about them.

And now, for all the Republican belittlement of "Pre-9/11 Thinking," the people who are struggling to help the President are those from the very heart of the pre-9/11 world. Ah, the ironies of life.

Stay the Course. "We'll succeed unless we quit." And so, we now know this grand Post-9/11 Thinking is nothing more than Henry Kissinger still trying to win Vietnam.

In the end, when it comes to the lessons of history, the most famous lesson of all is from George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Welcome back from Vietnam, Mr. President. We wish.