By Gary Hart, Wirth Chair Professor at the University of Colorado at Denver and former U.S. senator
I think Bush didn’t have a view of America’s role in the world until after 9/11, and then it was provided to him by those around him in power. They had two big ideas: One was to depose Saddam and use Iraq as a base to pacify, in an imperial way, the Middle East, and to control its oil. The second big idea, carried over by the vice-president and the secretary of Defense, was that of the unitary presidency. It also fits in with a kind of messianic belief on the part of the president that he did have a great purpose in life even though he had up until that time not discovered that, and his great purpose was to destroy international terrorism and overthrow dictators and spread democracy.
I think he’s not totally delusional. The escalation is the last gasp. He had to give it, in his own mind, one more try. The most interesting thing he said was about a year and a half ago: “This war will not be solved in my presidency.” And that was his exit strategy, I think. He had concluded that he did not expect to achieve success.
He clings to a thought that in 20 or 25 years, history will maybe prove him right, and people will say he really knew what he was doing. But throughout all of this, he has seemed so blithe and casual about death and destruction. It would have kept me awake at night. I don’t know how he does it. He must just turn it off.