George Packer recenserar en nyutkommen bok:
The structure of “Decision Points,” with each chapter centered on a key issue—stem-cell research, interrogation and wiretapping, the invasion of Iraq, the fight against AIDS in Africa, the surge, the “freedom agenda,” the financial crisis—reveals the essential qualities of the Decider. There are hardly any decision points at all. The path to each decision is so short and irresistible, more like an electric pulse than like a weighing of options, that the reader is hard-pressed to explain what happened. Suddenly, it’s over, and there’s no looking back. The decision to go to war “was an accretion,” Richard Haass, the director of policy-planning at the State Department until the invasion of Iraq, told me. “A decision was not made—a decision happened, and you can’t say when or how.” (...)
Here is another feature of the non-decision: once his own belief became known to him, Bush immediately caricatured opposing views and impugned the motives of those who held them. If there was an honest and legitimate argument on the other side, then the President would have to defend his non-decision, taking it out of the redoubt of personal belief and into the messy empirical realm of contingency and uncertainty. So critics of his stem-cell ban are dismissed as scientists eager for more government cash, or advocacy groups looking to “raise large amounts of money,” or Democrats who saw “a political winner.”
On the policy of torturing captured Al Qaeda suspects, Bush writes that he refused to approve two techniques requested by the Central Intelligence Agency but gave the O.K. to waterboarding. George Tenet, the C.I.A. director, asked permission to use waterboarding on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational mastermind behind September 11th. “I thought about my meeting with Danny Pearl’s widow, who was pregnant with his son when he was murdered,” Bush writes. (Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter, was reportedly beheaded by K.S.M.) “I thought about the 2,973 people stolen from their families by al Qaeda on 9/11. And I thought about my duty to protect the country from another act of terror. ‘Damn right,’ I said.” By Bush’s own account, revenge was among his chief motives in sanctioning torture. “I had asked the most senior legal officers in the U.S. government to review the interrogation methods, and they had assured me they did not constitute torture.” The President had been told what he wanted to hear by loyal subordinates, but, his memoirs make clear, he did not consider the moral and practical consequences of authorizing what most people who were not senior legal officers in the Bush Administration would describe as torture. One crucial consequence—the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib—receives a single page (most of which is about Bush’s reasons for not firing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld).
Bush once told an elementary-school class in Crawford, Texas, “Is it hard to make decisions as president? Not really. If you know what you believe, decisions come pretty easy. If you’re one of these types of people that are always trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing, decision making can be difficult. But I find that I know who I am. I know what I believe in.” For Bush, making decisions is an identity question: Who am I? The answer turns Presidential decisions into foregone conclusions: I am someone who believes in the dignity of life, I am the protector of the American people, I am a loyal boss, I am a good man who cares about other people, I am the calcium in the backbone. This sense of conviction made Bush a better candidate than the two Democrats he was fortunate to have as opponents in his Presidential campaigns. But real decisions, which demand the weighing of compelling contrary arguments and often present a choice between bad options, were psychologically intolerable to the Decider. They confused the identity question.
The New Yorker © 2010 Condé Nast Digital.