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George Walker Bush

In the early 1800s, Anglos settled in Texas and encountered the Comanche Indians. The Comanche raided Anglo farmsteads as they had Mexican farmsteads for generations. They murdered many and carried off others for slaves and ritual torture. With little money and few people, the Anglos organized the Texas Rangers, a tiny force of cavalry charged with stopping the Comanche raids. Unfortunately the rapid fire of the Comanche bows turned out to be better than the Rangers’ single-shot muskets, even after the rangers strapped comically large numbers of weapons on their bodies.

In 1847, Ranger Sam Walker teamed up with Sam Colt and designed the Colt Walker pistol, seen in George’s arms on the front of this coaster. The new gun combined the rapid fire of the Comanche bow with the grievous bodily injury of the musket. Now the Rangers could defeat the Comanche in battle, but they still could not intercept the raiding parties in the vast plains of Texas. Instead, they launched punitive raids of their own, massacring entire Comanche villages in an effort to force peace.

Today the Comanche are pacified, but the lessons of Indian warfare are still with us. In the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks George Walker Bush instinctively reverted to Texan frontier thinking. He is supposed to have said “Someone is going to pay!” even before knowing who the perpetrators were. A primitive response, but Afghans and Texans have much in common when it comes to judicial philosophy: The Pashtun tribal code includes “Badal,” the right and obligation of vengeance.

Bush’s effort in Afghanistan has been pretty cautious. In order to avoid more civil war the warlords have not been charged as criminals nor forced out of power. We have not pushed modernizing reforms that might upset traditional Afghans the way the communists did. We chose Karzai, a wise and charismatic Pashtun with excellent tribal credentials, to lead the country. Although slow, the effort to build a national army seems to be going reasonably well. We hold the lowlands and the roads, we have powerful weapons, but like the Rangers in old Texas, we are having trouble locating our enemies in Afghanistan. Bush’s efforts have to be considered a failure because thousands of murdered Americans remain unavenged years after their deaths. A Texas Ranger would have hunted Osama to the exclusion of all other pursuits, and made no excuses.