Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Education President

We're going to talk about books for a moment. I'm reading one right now. It's called The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence. That's Lawrence of Arabia. It is his account of the Arab revolt during World War I, and it is almost one thing like the movie staring Peter O'Toole.

I bring it up because I would like to know if our president has read it. It is entirely possible that he has. It's been around for years and it is the type of old boy tome they liked up at Yale back in the day. Lawrence says some interesting things about war in Arabia. He says the war was won once the preaching began. The killing was incidental. Their strategy was to fight a guerilla war. The Turks, with their tanks and armored cars and long supply lines and huge armies could move large numbers of troops around, hold Medina and Mecca, flex their muscles all over Arabia, but Feisal and his army would just go where the enemy wasn't, attack them where they were weakest, and occupy those lands the Turks weren't on. The Turks could have the one percent of Arabia they were standing on at any given time and Lawrence and Feisal would operate in the other 99%. The Turks simply could not win. It was a strategy that had worked for George Washington before Lawrence and for Ho Chi Mihn after him, and it famously worked for Lawrence as well.

He also goes to great lengths to describe the conflicts between the various tribes and religions in Syria (which at the time included Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Damascus, Israel, Gaza and Palestine as well as parts of Turkey). In some places Christians lived well with Muslims, in other places they did not, how the Jews in Jerusalem were not the same as the Jews farther north, how their hatred for each other was centuries old and intractable.

It's an interesting book because so much of what Lawrence wrote about is still true. We drove to Baghdad at lightening speed, but we did not stop to occupy the lands we passed through. We created long and fragile supply lines running through the desert. We have ceded control of large parts of Iraq to insurgents because we simply can't be everywhere at once.

The media doesn't really cover this story. In spite of conservative cries to the contrary, the Bush administration's attempts to control negative information about the war have been largely successful. Only rarely do any news organizations cover the literally hundreds of insurgent attacks which have occurred every one of the past few months in Iraq. Unless it is a big bomb in the green zone, or one that kills Americans or high government officials, we don't hear about it. If we did America would know that any pretense of control we have in Iraq, and pretense of our being welcome their by the general populace, any pretense that Iraq is stable or moving toward stability, is a big fat lie.

So I wonder, has Bush read this book? I would think you'd want to read a book by someone who was so successful in Arabia before you invaded an Arab nation. I don't think he read it, because he's doing every stupid thing the Turks did.

Oh, wait! His father wrote a book about this too, one in which he said he couldn't invade Iraq because there would have been no exit strategy. Guess G.W. didn't read that one either.

Which brings me back to my question: what kind of books does Bush read? We know he can read. He graduated from Yale, which ain't easy. He famously does not read newspapers. I assume he reads the Bible, but does he read anything else? As far as I can tell, the Bible not withstanding, Bush doesn't read. He can read, he just doesn't read.

It is one of the great hypocrisies of this administration full of hypocrisies that the education president does not read.


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