Just a quick observation. After 9/11, when Bush showed such strong resolve regarding Afghanistan, and his critics began to amp up the rhetoric about his religious beliefs, I used to joke that these insults might have an unexpected side effect vis a vis those hostile to America. While you and I know that Bush is not a millenialist madman, they might not know that. And before they decided to bomb an American city, they might think twice about it based on their belief that Bush, unlike Clinton, would believe he was within his divine rights to retaliate against Mecca or Damascus. Again, I didn't think he ever would, I just joked that it helped that our enemies might think he would.
What's so interesting is that I now believe we really do have that kind of madman in power — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. Unlike Bush, who has never even come close to articulating all those evil thoughts imputed to him, Ahmadinejad isn't shy about his apocalyptic rantings. He envisions himself as a divinely inspired prophet in an apocalyptically based religion. In other words, he gives ever indication that he feels that, through nuclear weapons, it will be his privilege and responsibility to bring about his own religion's brand of Armageddon, starting with Israel's destruction. Interestingly, nations are responding to him precisely as I predicted they would respond to the imaginary "madman Bush" — with abject fear and many second thoughts about doing anything that might offend his hyper-delicate sensibilities.
Also of interest is the fact that those same people who endlessly castigated Bush for a fanaticism that existed only in their own minds are now endlessly excusing Ahmadinejad's explicit, violent and genocidal fanaticism. (You know who are you, editors at the New York Times.)