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After listening to President Bush's pre-war speech tonight, I couldn't help but think of the first Gulf War.

That war commenced roughly 12 years ago, in January 1991.

To an extent, that war took me in a new direction. I was an undergrad, and had already made the switch from a pre-med track to political science. But I wasn't quite sure where I was headed with it. I signed up for an undergrad seminar in Defense and Strategic Studies with Bill Van Cleave, a noted conservative "hawk" who was vilified by campus liberals (I had just made my own conversion from liberal tree hugger about that time). I figured I might as well go see for myself what all the fuss was about.

It was quite a semester. I was exposed for the first time really to the rigorous study of defense issues and American foreign policy. And in the middle of the Gulf War to boot. What timing! What a great experience.

That experience kept me around for graduate study in defense and strategic studies (and later, PhD work), and that training was the key to the political risk analysis I do now, even though it's not exactly defense-policy oriented.

And here we are again, on the brink of war, with another President Bush in charge.

I still recall Dr. Van Cleave's reaction after Colin Powell, Brent Scowcroft, and company made the fateful decision a dozen years ago to stop the hostilities. In the seminar immediately following that decision, he said, "The administration seems determined to snatch political defeat from a great military victory."

How true. And how vividly I can recall that prescient observation.

Thank goodness the current President Bush is not a jellyfish like his father.

[Posted at 20:54 CST on 03/17/03] [Link]

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