April 10, 2003


Preemptive Peace (Harold Meyerson, April 8, 2003, Washington Post)
From the folks who brought us preemptive war, here comes preemptive peace.

The Defense Department intellectuals who have emerged as the dominant force in U.S. foreign policy had it all mapped out. While the debate raged over whether to go to war in Iraq, they dispatched a couple of hundred thousand troops to the region, establishing a fact on the ground that ultimately made the war unstoppable. Now, while the debate is just beginning over the nature of the interim government in postwar Iraq, they have dispatched a postwar government of their choosing to the Kuwait Hilton.

With the assistance of Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, George W. Bush has emerged as an apt pupil of Nathan Bedford Forrest. In war and now in peace, he gets there first with the most men. Deployment precedes -- and damn near obviates -- debate.

The comparison of President Bush to the founder of the Ku Klux Klan is fairly standard for the Left these days, which has no coherent arguments to make, only epithets to sling, but surely the Post has some standards about what they allow even mere opinion writers to call people, no? One of Forrest's successors, David Duke, sides with Mr. Meyerson as regards the war, but in what way does that knowledge and implicit tarring advance the political dialogue? Posted by Orrin Judd at April 10, 2003 7:59 PM


I didn't even think about the KKK when I read that, until I saw it on your blog.

What I immediately thought of was Shelby Foote talking about Forrest, saying, in so many words, that he came across to many as a backwoods hick, but was essentially brilliant, had little or no formal military training and was one of the sharpest military minds of the entire war, and expressed technical concepts in the most simple fashion, like, as you write, "Git there firstest with the mostest". And was, of course, a superb leader of men. He also surrendered honorably and almost undefeated, rather than submit the country to the horror of guerilla warfare.

OK, maybe I'm being naive, but if you're talking about military matters, and we are, I don't see being compared to Nathan Bedford Forrest as such a terrible insult. I'll bet many Union officers would agree, much less Southerners.

(And I might be wrong, but I thought Forrest repudiated the Klan late in his life. Not certain of that, though.)

Posted by: Andrew X at April 10, 2003 8:49 PM

What he said above.

Posted by: H.D. Miller at April 10, 2003 9:41 PM

So you thought it was meant to be complimentary?

Posted by: oj at April 10, 2003 9:47 PM

Was it not Stonewall Jackson who summarized his strategy as, "Get there first with the most men."?

Posted by: starshatterer at April 10, 2003 11:29 PM

Actually, Napoleon. For every American who

knows Forrest was the first elected leader of

the Knights of the White Camellia (not the klan,

sensu strictu), 10 know about his aphorism.

If it was meant to be a dig at Bush, it was

remarkably indirect for a newspaper audience.

However, Meyerson's reference to Forrest was

not apt. His point was more closely paralled

by A.J.P. Taylor in his book on the origins of

World War I, but nobody is going to make it

far in Beltway journalism by sly allusions to

Alan Taylor.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 11, 2003 3:09 AM


It is inapt because the military allusion is not the point.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2003 8:36 AM

OJ -

To answer your question, I just don't get a sense from the article that the Klan connection was the reason for the reference. There was a great deal more to Forrest than that.

Again, maybe naive, but I just don't get that sense.

Posted by: Andrew X at April 11, 2003 10:36 AM


I missed Meyerson's discussion of that great deal more. All I saw was a statement that Bush is an "apt pupil" of Forrest.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2003 11:33 AM

Actually, raising the Klan and other hate groups seems to be a favorite tactic of Mr. Meyerson's. Here are a few I found just by putting--"harold meyerson" klan--in a search:

Taliban as Klan


Pat Buchanan




Posted by: oj at April 11, 2003 11:53 AM

Orrin Judd, deconstructionist.

You may have descried a really nasty motive, but I can't say i think many of his readers would have caught on.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 11, 2003 10:35 PM


Words mean things.

What % have ever even heard of Forrest? Obviously not the editors at the Post.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2003 11:27 PM

Everybody where I come from has heard of

him, but I'm from Tennessee.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 12, 2003 2:39 AM


Of course the Klasnsmen know...

Posted by: oj at April 12, 2003 4:09 PM