Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Bush Is the Man to Deal With 'Barbarians at the Gates'

Mon, October 4, 2004
Barbarians are at the U.S. gates
By Salim Mansur -- For the Toronto Sun

George Bush became the 43rd American president in the 2000 election by winning the all-important electoral college vote while losing the popular vote.

America's founding fathers designed a republican democracy where the potential passion of the people is tempered by the sobriety of electors representing the various states.

The 2000 election confirmed the wisdom of the founding fathers. It is as if providence saved the republic by electing a president with great moral reserve to defeat the evil threat of his time.

Few knew the mettle of Bush in 2000. Fewer expected his presidency to be of greater consequence than the one he was succeeding.

But 9/11 was a transformative moment, and a nation could only rise to meet this latest confrontation between good and evil if its leader understood his responsibility unambiguously.

Bush recognized 9/11, with its long antecedent, for what it was -- a new version of the old and recurrent assault that barbarians make on civilization, requiring the sort of stamina civilization needs to protect itself and destroy its enemy.

Barbarians, as the great 14th-century Arab historian-philosopher Ibn Khaldun observed, have no purpose except destruction of civilized life.

The only useful explanation for barbarians is an analysis of their origin. All other efforts in seeking a "root cause" explanation for them are not only futile, they are looking for some or any merit in the behaviour of killers where none is warranted.

Barbarians emerge from harsh conditions of lands beyond the frontier of civilized life, as the huns invading ancient Rome did. Or they are -- as the Nazis were -- the detritus of civilized life, irreparably corrupted and doomed in early 20th-century Germany, or -- as Muslim fascists are -- of failed societies in the Arab-Muslim world.

Bush does not possess Lincoln's grandeur, Roosevelt's or Reagan's charm, or Churchill's eloquence.

But like them, Bush possesses the one big thing needed: resolve and clarity of purpose, when civilization itself is placed in peril.

Kerry wants summit

His opponent, Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, instead wants to have a summit of Middle Eastern leaders -- many of whom are themselves the alchemists of Islamist barbarism. These are the leaders he will rely on to advance freedom and progress in the region, even though they know such development will mark their doom.

Kerry's supporters make much ado about his experience in Vietnam as a war-decorated hero. But there is no necessary connection between experience in past wars and preparedness or leadership in future conflict.

Kerry is a reminder of others whose much-heralded experience in earlier battles turned counter-productive in subsequent struggles: Marshall Philippe Petain became France's hero as defender of Verdun in World War I. In June 1940, as Hitler's army prevailed over the French, Petain stepped forward to surrender France's honour to German Nazis.

It was left to an unknown officer, Charles de Gaulle, to wage stubbornly France's resistance against barbarians and redeem its shredded honour with Allied support.

Kerry, in contrast to Bush, is clever as a fox, seemingly knows in much detail most things and, like a fox, now strives to substitute cleverness for resolve when confronted with the awful magnitude of such a big thing as the contemporary war of civilization against barbarism.

The choice in this year's presidential election is not between Bush and someone reminding Americans of Lincoln or Churchill.

The choice is between Bush and Kerry as a reminder of Petain, who chose a Vichy peace with barbarians instead of destroying them.

Hence for Americans, and for those whose hopes rest on the great republic's leadership in world affairs, supporting Bush is not a choice but a necessity if we are to prevail over barbarians in our time.

(Mansur is a professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario.)