Presidential historian Michael Beschloss is speaking tonight at Drake University in Des Moines. In an interview with Radio Iowa, Beschloss says the final analysis of the war with Iraq is years away. He says the thing we can be sure of now is the war happened a lot faster and with far less casualties than expected. He says the true test of the war will be whether we achieve the goal of a real regime change with leaders who move toward a more democratic government. Beschloss says achieving that goal is not easy. He says we’ve committed ourselves to holding free elections, and it’s possible the free election could put someone like Saddam Hussein in power. Beschloss says the outcome of the action in Iraq could have big implications for our future with other countries in the MIddle East.He says if this experiment works well and the Iraqi people are happier and we’ve filled our role of occupier in a good way, then it’ll give other countries a better view of the U-S. He says if we act like arrogant occupiers, it will leave a bad impression for a very long time. As for the political ramifications of the war at home, Beschloss says the party that’s not in the White House has the toughest time addressing national security issues. He says those who were strongly for or against the war will probably fare the best, as they have an argument to make. He says those who waffled or stayed in the middle will probably be hurt, as he says Americans like leaders who take a strong position one way or the other. Beschloss says many people didn’t agree with the strong stance Ronald Reagen took against the Russians in 1980, but they voted for him because they viewed him as a strong leader. As for President Bush, Beschloss says he’s not forgetting history when it comes to the success of this war. Beschloss says Bush has his father’s defeat in 1992 after enjoying a 90 percent approval rate following the first Gulf War. He says there’s evidence the younger Bush is heeding that lesson by the meeting he’s holding today on the economy to show he’s concerned about the economy. Beschloss has written books on Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and John Kennedy, all presidents who faced some sort of national crisis. He says the terrorist attacks on the U-S and the war in Iraq may ultimately be the benchmark of Bush’s. He says presidents are often made great by war and crisis if they step up to the plate, but he says we won’t know if that’s the case for Bush for another 20 or 30 years. Beschloss has served as the “Resident Historian” for ABC News during the war in Iraq. He is also currently working on a book about Abraham Lincoln.
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