Decision Points: Insight into Mismanagement

This doesn’t mean that Bush fails to admit mistakes in the book -- it’s just that this isn’t one of them. He also puzzlingly defends waiting until January 2007 to launch the surge. “If I had acted sooner it could have created a rift that would have been exploited by war critics in Congress to cut off funding and prevent the surge from succeeding,” Bush writes. I’m sorry, but what happened in the aftermath of the announcement? A rift was created and Congress tried to cut off funding for the war unless a firm timetable for withdrawal was established.

This happened because the majority of the American people had turned against the war and wanted troops to begin coming home immediately as violence escalated, especially in 2006. There is no conceivable reason to think that when America was more pro-Iraq War it’d also be more anti-surge. Furthermore, Bush admits it was a mistake to bring troop levels down from 192,000 to 109,000 after Saddam was toppled, many of whom were focused on training Iraqis and not on restoring security. If it was a mistake to bring down troop levels in 2003, why not increase troop levels to correct that mistake before 2007?

Granted, the greater point of the book is the decision-making process, rather than the implementation. When the reader learns how shortly after 9/11 the FBI told the president that there were 331 potential al-Qaeda members in the U.S., the rationale behind controversial programs like the Patriot Act is better understood. When Bush puts his thoughts into words about Saddam Hussein, it is more appreciated why the Iraqi government was seen as a tank of gasoline dangerously close to igniting.

One of the most insightful lines in Bush’s book is when he writes about the catch-22 facing him in trying to stop terrorism. “If none [terrorism] happened, whatever I did would possibly look like an overreaction. If we were attacked again, people would demand to know why I hadn’t done more,” he writes.

Decision Points goes a long way in showing the job of president as mostly unglamorous. The catch-22 outlined by Bush dooms you to failure. The mismanagement pointed out here should not take away from how Bush’s book helps put readers in the driver’s seat, but a discussion of what went wrong and why is warranted. Books by former presidents aren’t only personal stories, but guides for future presidents so they can learn from past mistakes.

Let’s hope that those running for president read Decision Points.