Inspection, introspection, spectacles, spectacular, aspect, specimen. All these words come from the latin word for “look.” For all the looking we do today in politics, we rarely look back. For example, there was a time in 2006 where the Iraq war looked quite bad, and George Bush looked pretty stupid.

Everything was all muddled up. Iraq didn’t have WMD, they didn’t seem to be getting democracy, and there seemed little reason to continue.

However, as U.S. troops leave Iraq in a serious way, we can get a little perspective. First, remember back to 2006 where you stared at W with an unbelieving look on your face. Who IS this guy? What? He’s our president? No way. I know I had some pretty harsh judgments, and don’t get me wrong, there are issues that I understand much better than the Iraq war where I’m pretty confident he blew it.

Still, remember back to those dark days of 2006 and now look at things. Would it be too much to note that we’re leaving Iraq after about 7 years, and the country has a fairly low level of violence, a trained police force, and the beginnings of democracy. Imagine Bush, ignoring criticism, pulling the trigger on the surge, and keeping up the pressure (thank god he had access to Petraeus). He didn’t do bad for himself on the war after all.

The lesson about observing the past could be useful now. There’s talk of a hard withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011, but this deadline will almost surely be overlooked. Should we worry about that, or should we be more positive about this generation of leaders their willingness to continue until results are achieved.

I’m not sure, but too often we forget the lessons we learned five days ago. Here’s a classic and simple example that I will hopefully remember when the time comes: democrats and republican both have been evading questions about how they would reduce the deficit by pointing to the president’s debt commission, which will report findings after the midterms. Everyone PRAISES this commission. “O me? I don’t have any idea what to do about the deficit, but the DEBT COMMISSION, that’s the stuff of magic. It will take a hard look at…blah blah blah” But just you wait. The debt commission will either say nothing of substance, in which case, we have to use a little retrospection to realize all these politicians were just bullshitting us, or, as is more likely I think, there will be some real recommendations, but they will be universally ignored. Again, we will find out that our politicians are very disingenuous.

Auto bailouts are another example. How are they doing? Does anyone know? Oil spill? Again, off the radar. Total darkness on these issues. I looked into the auto bailout, but I didn’t get far, maybe a future post…

To see these lessons though — these nice encapsulations of problems that our politics to confront — we must keep the past more carefully in mind.


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