Andrew Bacevich's introduction to Reinhold Niebuhr's The Irony of American History is a great example of the idiocy of Bush critics in the middle of the last decade. Samples
The illusions of Osama bin Laden find their parallel in the illusions of George W. Bush. Each of these two protagonists is intent on radically changing the Middle East. Neither will succeed, but in their efforts they engage in a de facto collaboration that causes enormous mischief and suffering...
What's striking here is the arrogance of the "neither will succeed"-- when Bacevich thinks that he's denouncing arrogance. Starting with the Arab Spring, things are turning out differently. The Bush administration certainly transformed Iraq-- no illusions there-- and now the germ seems to have spread. I don't expect Bacevich to issue any apologies.
Today [Niebuhr] summons us to toss aside what he calls "the halo of moral sanctity" and to disenthrall ourselves from the self-aggrandizing parable in which we cast America as liberator of the world's oppressed.
Liberator of all the world's oppressed? True, that would be overreaching. But it's not arrogant to think we can liberate one strategically selected country here and there. That's actually quite likely. It would be one thing if Bacevich said the Bush administration's view that Iraq could be liberated and democratized, though plausible, was unlikely to be vindicated by events. That would be a sensible view, and he would deserve only a mild degree of embarrassment for not being vindicated. But no, Bacevich sets himself up as an oracle, and thinks the Bush administration's idea is only worthy of a sneer. Well, Bush was right-- and the humiliation to Bacevich is proportional to his arrogance.
The collapse of the Bush administration's hubristic strategy for the Middle East would not have surprised our prophet [Niebuhr].
Bush's strategy for the Middle East did not collapse. It worked, mostly. And it was never hubristic. It was bold, to be sure. It was a gamble. But one doesn't have to have overweening pride in order to take risks. The hubris is all on the side of Bacevich and other self-appointed wise men.
The masterminds who conceived the Iraq War imagined that they could sweep away the old order and usher into existence a new Iraq expected to be liberal, democratic, and aligned with the United States. Their exertions have only demonstrated how little they understood Iraq's history-- along with the dangers of playing God.
The "masterminds" sarcasm is juvenile, and is a reminder of how mature and serious the Bush administration was compared to so many of its critics. The "playing God" jibe is ridiculous: America was conducting a military campaign, and establishing a new regime, as the British Empire did in dozens of places and America did in Germany and Japan and elsewhere, etc., etc. It doesn't take "God" to do what America was trying to do.
As for history, about half the countries on earth have established successful democracies in the 20th century after never having done so before. To think that Iraqi democracy was destined to fail because of Iraq's history-- not likely to fail, but destined to fail-- is just a proof of ignorance. The architects of the Iraq war were hoping that Iraq would be liberal, democratic, and aligned with the United States; but if "better than Saddam" was all they got, that's an improvement; and the odds of that were always very good.
Besides, a war with Iraq was sure to be a "cakewalk."
Naturally, no footnote is provided here in support of this claim.
The lesson is clear: it is time for Americans to give up their Messianic dreams and cease their efforts to coerce history in a particular direction.
A typical claim of the Bush Derangement Syndrome-affected sages of the last decade: pompous, oracular, contentless. Were we "coercing history in a particular direction" when we fought the Nazis? Of course, and on the other hand, of course not. The question is meaningless. We were defending ourselves; but we were also trying to spread justice and humanity among men. The two goals are hard to separate and it's better not to try to separate them.
One good thing the Obama administration has done: by basically just staying the course in foreign policy, it has legitimized the Bush record in foreign affairs, and taken the wind out of silly windbags like Andrew Bacevich.