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Ross Douthat Writes a Truly Terrifying Horror Story

It's about people doing to George W. Bush in the future what others have in the past done to the foreign policy of Teddy Roosevelt:

The Atlantic Online | June 2008 | Redeeming Dubya | Ross Douthat: The national memory often confuses hubris with greatness. That’s good news for George W. Bush: The idea that history might rehabilitate George W. Bush seems too ludicrous to be seriously entertained. His approval ratings have been so low for so long, it’s hard to remember that he was ever popular. The Iraq War, his signal endeavor, has lasted for more years than America’s involvement in the Second World War and seems likely to last longer; a fragile truce in a wrecked, misgoverned country is the best the next president can hope for.

Even many of the president’s ideological allies consider him a failure... a false conservative who betrayed the Reagan legacy... a blunderer... [whp] couldn’t follow through. His liberal foes, whose bill of indictments has swollen to the size of Gravity’s Rainbow, while away the hours until January 2009 by arguing over just how terrible a president he’s been. The worst since Nixon? Since Hoover? Since James Buchanan?...

[N]early every presidential reputation, however tarnished, eventually finds someone willing to defend it.... But something more than partisan apologetics will be needed for his presidency to be remembered as something other than a failure.... George W. Bush will have to win over not only centrists but at least some liberals.... Imagining that these liberals, and others, might be won over again requires two big assumptions. First, assume that the years immediately after Bush leaves office pass without domestic calamity.... The harder assumption... America’s intervention in Iraq eventually needs to come out looking like a success story rather than a folly.

This seems improbable, to put it mildly. But the crucial word here is eventually. The Bush administration has often seemed bent on vindicating, in the short run and by force of arms, Francis Fukuyama’s famous long-term prediction that liberal democracy will ultimately triumph... if the Iraq of 2038 or so is stable, democratic, and at peace with its neighbors, and if American troops have maintained a constant presence in the country--no one should be surprised to hear hawkish liberals as well as conservatives taking up the idea that George W. Bush deserves a great deal of the credit.

I do not mean to suggest that this is a likely outcome, or that it would be a just one. The cost of the Iraq War, in lives and dollars and squandered opportunities, ought to far outweigh the possibility that a long-term American presence might push the Middle East in a direction it was headed anyway.... [W]e’ve forgiven Teddy Roosevelt his role in the bloody and disgraceful occupation of the Philippines.... Despite our crimes, the Philippines turned out well enough in the long run... these well-respected presidents have benefited, as well, from the American tendency to overvalue activist leaders....

[A] too-keen awareness of the American tendency to associate great leadership with world-historical ambition has wrecked the presidency of George W. Bush. But the enthusiasm for Barack Obama and John McCain suggests that the yearning, on the left and right alike, for presidents who will pursue greatness has only been enhanced by the debacle in Iraq. This is good news for Bush.... But it’s dangerous news for America. Those who rehabilitate the follies of the past are condemned to repeat them.

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