The complete transcript of yesterday’s interview with CFR’s Walter Russell Mead is now posted here. One central exchange:
HH: I guess what I’m saying is when I read Bernard Lewis, or I’ve heard him lecture a couple of times, sort of like our Cato the Elder…
HH: He ends every speech by saying either we will free them or they will kill us.
HH: And I don’t hear that [from you]. You’re not alarmed.
WRM: Well, no, I’m concerned, okay? But again, I keep looking at we have been winning for three hundred years.
HH: And we’ve never had a death cult with weapons of mass destruction.
WRM: We’ve had some pretty rotten things. And you know, I mean, we’ve…Stalin had the nuclear bomb.
HH: Not a death cult.
WRM: And while it was not a death cult, but a pretty scary thing, and there were definitely moments when the Chinese leadership, say, at the time of the Red Guard and so on was not far from craziness. So you know, I don’t think this is as out…this is a new kind of danger, it is a serious danger. It is clearly the number one issue that people dealing with American security and foreign policy need to deal with.
HH: And it might explain the invasion of Iraq.
WRM: It conceivably does. But again, what I say is it was still…we still did it the worst way. I noted…look at how hard Lincoln worked to get the South to fire the first shot. There were ways, I think, we could have done…
HH: Look at how many generals Lincoln went through, and the fact that it had 600,000 dead, and not the terrible and awful toll of 4,000…
WRM: Look, and I…and I…no, no.
HH: But still, 4,000.
WRM: Listen, I completely agree, and I take a lot of heat by the way for not going out there and saying the republic is dead, Bush has destroyed the American republic. He hasn’t. And furthermore, as I keep pointing out to people, we have yet to have one-tenth the military deaths in Vietnam, I mean in Iraq that we did in Vietnam. And furthermore, I think we lost more troops in the Philippine insurrection than we have in Iraq.
HH: What do you judge of the character of George W. Bush?
WRM: Well, I’ve never met the man, and so you know, I’m actually…
HH: You never met Lincoln, but we have a good judgment of his character as well.
WRM: Yeah, but you know, let me wait until some of the people who…what is that Zhou Enlai said about the French revolution? “It’s too soon to tell.” I think George Bush is a deeply honest, sincere, religious man. I think he puts the protection of the United States above his own personal political interest or that of his party. I think he may have been…he is deeply loyal to those around him, possibly was loyal to a fault.
HH: Is he the Republican Truman?
WRM: He could…it could be that people will look at him that way.
HH: That’s what I think we’re going to find out.
Mead is a scholar, and a brilliant, fundamentally decent man who cannot indulge the left’s furies about President Bush. He deserves quite a lot of applause from the center-right for this stance, and we should hope his attitude would spread and renew and reform the left’s rhetoric on the war.