According to a popular story, when Richard Nixon asked China’s then premier Zhou Enlai about his thoughts on the French Revolution, Zhou replied that it was “too soon to tell.” The story is meant to suggest that the Chinese are far better at taking the long view of history. Unfortunately, it’s all a misunderstanding—according to Nixon’s translator for the trip, Zhou was actually referring to France’s 1968 student uprisings. Yet the Zhou of legend has found some equally farsighted friends in the neoconservative camp. A Paul Wolfowitz essay, released today in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, uses Zhou’s phrase in its title, and opens with a warning that “it may be a long time before we really know the outcome of the Iraq war.” Jeb Bush was similarly cautious in a recent tour of the Sunday talk shows:
You know, a lot of things in history change over time. I think people will respect the resolve that my brother showed, both in defending the country and the war in Iraq. But history will judge that in a more objective way than today. The war has wound down now and it's still way too early to judge what success it had in providing some degree of stability in the region.