I bought President Bush’s autobiography, Decision Points, a while ago and during some quiet time over the Fourth of July weekend had an opportunity to read it.
It was obvious that President Bush wrote the book himself. It included many wonderful, personal stories about him, his courtship of Laura, his drinking problem in his early years, and his very strong, loving relationship with this mother and dad.
I was anxious to learn about the background for his decision to invade Iraq, in search of weapons of mass destruction, since none were found after the fall of the country.
Bush said he relied on the strong recommendation of the NIE, National Intelligence Estimate, that emphatically stated that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions. If left unchecked, he believed Iraq would have had a nuclear weapon during this decade.
In the fall of 2002, Congress supported his congressional war resolution. The Senate passed it 77 to 23, the House 296 to 133. Later that fall, the UN Security Council passed a similar war resolution unanimously, 15 to nothing.
Reports of Iraq’s WMD continued to pour in from around the world. When Bush made the decision to invade, he wrote: “Given everything we knew, allowing Saddam to stay in power would have amounted to an enormous gamble. I would have had to bet that either every major intelligence agency was wrong or that Saddam would have a change of heart. After seeing the horror of 9/11, that was not a chance I was willing to take. Military action was my last resort. But, I believed it was necessary.”
My major learning from reading Decision Points was the great difficulty the President had in gaining consensus from his White House staff and his cabinet on major decisions that confronted him.
Frequently, his team ended up with conflicting recommendations, leaving the final decision to the President himself.
As we know, he was willing to make some tough calls – mostly without the full support of his team. Many decisions were good and he freely admits that some were not. But he made the call and he stuck to it.
While many Americans are still critical of the President’s decision, after reading the book, I believe history will be more kind to him for his strong leadership.
I’d love to hear what you’re reading this summer. Send me some recommendations.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.
P.S. Here's what you've been reading. It's compiled from your comments. -- Bill
"Nothing to Fear" by Adam Cohen; "Try Known and Unknown" by Donald Rumsfeld; "The Miracle of Freedom: 7 Tipping Points that Saved the World" by Chris Stewart; "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot; “Lion In the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt” by Aida Donald; "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett; "The Kennedy Legacy" by Edward "Ted" Kennedy; "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand; "1421 - The Year That China Discovered America" by Gavin Menzies; "The Mastery of Love" by Don Miguel Ruiz; "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl; "Cleopatra" by Stacy Schiff; "Goodbye To A River" by John Graves; "The Innocent Man" by John Grisham; "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett; "Abraham Lincoln" by James M. McPherson; "The Ark of Millions of Years" by E.J. Clark and B. Alexander Agnew; "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese; "Enchantment" by Guy Kawasaki; "John Adams" by David McCullough; "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald; "Beyond Basketball" by Mike Krzyzewski.