I am currently re-reading “The Federalist” (in a delightful and beautiful leather-bound edition from the Easton Press). As I started through the book, I was struck by this passage from The Federalist #4 by John Jay:
Absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for purposes and objects merely personal, such as a thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.
John Jay has accurately described the war and occupation in Iraq, and the motives of the George W. Bush administration, more than two hundred years before they occurred. It is true: those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Let’s compare Jay’s four possible reasons that an “absolute monarch” might go to war, and see how they line up with what we have witnessed over the past six years…
A thirst for military glory: Bush failed in his military service, never served in combat, and left the National Guard under at best suspicious circumstances. As President, I have no doubt that he wanted to prove he’s quite the military genius. I also imagine he’s a bit jealous of his father, who was a genuine World War II hero.
Revenge for personal affronts: I know I’m not the only one who thinks that a large part of the reason for Bush’s invasion of Iraq may have been a subconscious (and I’m being generous there) desire to “get back” at Saddam for trying to kill his Daddy. Even if that’s not true, certainly Saddam goaded Bush both in public and private, all but daring him to attack. A wise man lets such affronts roll off his back; a foolish man accepts the schoolyard dare.
Ambition: Bush, a devotee of the Project for a New American Century, certainly wanted to prove that he was a brilliant student, and wanted to go down in history as The Man Who Solved The Middle East Oil Problem. So much so that he ignored all other advice to the contrary.
Private compacts to… support their particular families or partisans: Wow. Let’s see, now what business is the Bush family engaged in again? Oh, that’s right! Oil! And the Vice President, I believe he was the CEO of a certain company, Halliburton? So the war in Iraq was the bring “freedom and democracy” to a country that just happens to have the majority of the world’s untapped oil fields. And Halliburton is now the #1 government contractor, and their stock has increased in value by 600% since September of 2001.
So, if anyone wonders if George W. Bush considers himself an absolute monarch, don’t bother reading anything in today’s news. Just turn back 200 years and read what John Jay had to say in The Federalist. I don’t think anyone today has said it better.