reading George W. Bush

I’ve been thinking a bit about various theories that eorge

Bush is pursuing war for unstated motives, some nefarious and some honorable.

These thought are prompted by a Michael

Kinsley editorial and various conversations and email exchanges with friends.

As a general rule, I don’t believe that we should try to assess leaders’ motives.

That’s because:

  1. We can never tell for sure what their motives are.

    (Or even what motivates our own actions.)

  2. Motives don’t matter.

    You can do a bad or stupid thing with the best intentions, or you can do a great

    thing for awful reasons. We need to spend our time thinking about policies, not


  3. A focus on motives makes us turn for advice to insiders,

    those who may have insight into leaders’ secret thoughts. (For example, presidential

    advisors, speaking off the record.) We should instead listen to fellow citizens

    and experts with knowledge of the substantive issue.


we cannot make a very intelligent judgment about war in Iraq, because so much

of the important information that George W. Bush has on his desk is classified.

Also, much depends on how the war will turn out in the end. No one knows, but

George Bush’s motives are relevant, since he will make many crucial decisions.

Thus it is hard not to think about his motives as a surrogate way of grappling

with the issue.