Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has a column in Monday’s Washington Post, in which he warns about President Bush’s final thousand days… and it’s a must read.
The Hundred Days is indelibly associated with Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the Thousand Days with John F. Kennedy. But as of this week, a thousand days remain of President Bush’s last term — days filled with ominous preparations for and dark rumors of a preventive war against Iran.
The issue of preventive war as a presidential prerogative is hardly new. In February 1848 Rep. Abraham Lincoln explained his opposition to the Mexican War: “Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose — and you allow him to make war at pleasure [emphasis added]. . . . If, today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, ‘I see no probability of the British invading us’; but he will say to you, ‘Be silent; I see it, if you don’t.’ ”
This is precisely how George W. Bush sees his presidential prerogative: Be silent; I see it, if you don’t . However, both Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, veterans of the First World War, explicitly ruled out preventive war against Joseph Stalin’s attempt to dominate Europe. And in the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, President Kennedy, himself a hero of the Second World War, rejected the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a preventive strike against the Soviet Union in Cuba.
The Cuban missile crisis was not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. It was the most dangerous moment in all human history. Never before had two contending powers possessed between them the technical capacity to destroy the planet. Had there been exponents of preventive war in the White House, there probably would have been nuclear war.