The following was the lead-in to an article about Chirac, but I doubt that I’m the only one who thought it could just as easily be about Bush.

So there you are, leader of a nation. Things aren’t going well internally; there’s strife and the streets aren’t safe. The economy is stagnant and fragile and unemployment is high and rising. The people are grumbling and your future is on the line. And you don’t know what to do about the problem, because all the solutions are politically impossible even for you.

Your primary goal is to stay in power, and so you need to find something which will still the protests. Answer, right out of the history books: Wrap yourself in the flag, and go pick a fight with someone externally. If domestic affairs are a disaster, distract everyone with foreign policy. People naturally tend to rally during times of external crisis, and will defer their complaints about the domestic crisis.