Rod Serling got his start in writing by writing boxing stories (a radio play he’d written won a contest) and quite a few of the most affecting of the episodes of his old Twilight Zone series were boxing stories. I’m thinking of stories like The Big Tall Wish and Steel. The greatest teleplay ever written, Serling’s Requiem for a Heavyweight, is a boxing story.
I recall a story from the old Rod Serling’s Night Gallery series, The Ring With the Red Velvet Ropes. This is, of course, a boxing story. In this story, based on a short story by Edward Hoch, every winner of the world’s heavyweight boxing championship, on the moment of his victory, is transported to a sort of hell in which the real championship bout is fought. If he wins, he is returned to his life but forever after he has a sort of haunted look, knowing who the real champ is. If he loses Well, that would be telling. You’ll have to seek out the episode and watch it for yourself.
I’ve occasionally wondered about this story in a political context, particularly with respect to the presidency and especially with respect to foreign policy. There’s been a remarkable continuity over the years in American foreign policy. For details on how and why this might actually be see Walter Russell Mead’s book, Special Providence.
Whatever platform they might run on, presidents seem to continue with an evolutionary foreign policy rather than a revolutionary one. I wonder if this isn’t as true with George W. Bush as with the presidents that came before him.
I do not subscribe to the error theory of why the Iraq War has turned into such a mess by nearly anyone’s yardstick. According to this theory, the invasion was a good idea that was soured by a series of errors, mostly made by Bush Administration officials. The disbanding of the Iraqi Army is often pointed to as such an error. So is de-Ba’athification, the conduct of the CPA, letting al-Qaeda re-group in Fallujah, and a host of other things.
I disagree. I think that the invasion was a bad idea that could not have been redeemed however deftly handled. I’m skeptical, however, that a better outcome can be achieved by withdrawing our forces from Iraq before the place is significantly more stable than it is now however awful the situation there.
But here’s my question. Is the error uniquely George Bush’s? I know that Dan Nexon of The Duck of Minerva, for example, whose opinion I respect enormously, believes with all his heart that Bill Clinton would never have invaded Iraq if he’d been president in 2001 (and 2003). Nor would President Gore. Or McCain. Or President Hillary Clinton. Is that true?
Do not think for a moment that I’m trying to mount a defense of GWB. That’s not my intent. I didn’t vote for him in 2000, I didn’t support the invasion in 2003, I won’t defend him now. What I’m looking for is real evidence, from the 2001 to 2003 timeframe, that only George Bush, with a unique genius for miscalculation, would have invaded Iraq. Or is President Bush just another president with a sort of haunted look, compelled by the exigencies of events, politics, and the presidency?