ZenPundit
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
 
THE BUSH SPEECH

My compadre at the excellent blog The American Future, Marc Schulman, put up a thorough review of the President's speech on Iraq which I advise you to check out in full. Some highlights in Marc's view:

"His words provide the context for our efforts in Iraq -- notwithstanding Nancy Pelosi's complaints. There were terrorists in Iraq prior to our invasion, even if there was no "operational" connection (in the opinion of the 9/11 Commission) between them and Saddam's regime, and the Iraqi terrorists do share "the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens" on 9/11.

"To defeat them abroad before they attack us at home" ignores the risk (not certainty) that highly trained terrorists who aren't killed will turn their attention to the US if and when the hoped-for establishment of a democratic Iraqi government is accomplished. Our goal should be to kill and incarcerate all of them; this would be the war on terrorism's equivalent to our demand for unconditional surrender during World War II.

Bush is absolutely right in saying that the only way that "our enemies can succeed" is if "we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden." Withdrawal is out of the question. Above and beyond what would happen in the Middle East, a withdrawal would shatter our credibility, and with it, our influence in world affairs. That would be the path to international anarchy. "

A good example of why The American Future is a daily read for me. I am going to ignore Democratic and liberal critiques of Bush's speech for the same reason I am not going to comment on Marc's criticism of the Democratic response that he offers in his post - because the dynamic of ideological paralysis that envelopes the Democrats on GWOT or Iraq has little to do with Bush per se. The reigning mentality on display in that party has been going on since the defeat in Vietnam and either it will be worked through to reach a rational and effective liberalism on defense and foreign policy or the Democrats will go the way the Whigs did over slavery and sectionalism.

So I will turn to Marc's criticism of Bush instead:

"Bush needs to speak to the American public more frequently. Speeches like this one shouldn't be reserved for anniversaries: in this instance, it was the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqis last year. At a minimum, we deserve a quarterly report. I believe that the a more involved and informed public will be a more supportive public."

Action and not words is the Bush administration strong suit. Unlike Ronald Reagan speaking against Communism or FDR against Fascism, George W. Bush is not effective in the type of presidential role that historian David McCullough called " the Preacher Militant". In order to avoid criticism that America is in a " war against Islam", Bush tends to muddy the waters over who exactly the enemy is, where by contrast, Reagan 's soft touch anecdotes would showcase his anticommunism in a gentle way but with no loss of clarity. Bush instead opts to personalize, focusing on Bin Laden and Zarqawi though killing or capturing either, while a great victory, will not end the war.

Since Bush is a mediocre communicator he tends to avoid speaking out or at least procrastinates until his poll numbers begin to drop and his supporters begin to clamor for a presidential speech, thus raising expectations for a task he does not perform particularly well as it is. So, I am going to disagree somewhat with Marc. Making Bush go speak more frequently or hold more press conferences will just make Bush an increasingly frustrated-sounding punching bag. What the administration does need is an effective communication strategy with an articulated message of the day, week, month on the war.

The President does not need to do all the talking but the administration needs to speak with one voice regardless of who happens to be at the podium.
 
Comments:
the dynamic of ideological paralysis that envelopes the Democrats on GWOT or Iraq has little to do with Bush per se. The reigning mentality on display in that party has been going on since the defeat in Vietnam and either it will be worked through to reach a rational and effective liberalism on defense and foreign policy or the Democrats will go the way the Whigs did over slavery and sectionalism.

Funny, that's how Democrats see you guys: Republicans pour the nation's blood and treasure down a rat hole in pursuance of some sort of revenge/exculpation for the disasters of the past, including Vietnam and 9/11. Rationalizations and unproven allegations are swallowed whole, even regarded as self-evident justification. What the administration said two years ago, a year ago, six months ago, last month is shown to be "not operative" and is forgotten. Failures of policy are laid at the feet of a treasonous media and opposition. Talk that reminds one of the "Dolchstosslegende" circulates freely among the leaders of the Republican party. On the other hand, it is Democrats who argued that Saddam did not have WMD, did not have "operational" links to international terrorism, and did not pose a threat to U.S. security - yet you say blithely it is the Democrats who must change or be swept aside.

Right.
 
Mithras,

Please give examples from before the invasion (March 19, 2003)of Democrats claiming that Saddam didn't have WMD.
 
Mithras wrote:

"On the other hand, it is Democrats who argued that Saddam did not have WMD, did not have "operational" links to international terrorism, and did not pose a threat to U.S. security - yet you say blithely it is the Democrats who must change or be swept aside."

It is not me sweeping the Democrats aside but the electorate.

George W. Bush was not exactly Pericles on the stump last year and after the screwing up of the occupation of Iraq you really ought to ask yourself " why did the voters still trust Bush on national security and not my party?". Absent 9/11 would Bush have won re-election in 2004 ?

Are progressives, esp. antiwar progressives, helping or hurting the Democratic Party on national security, defense and the war ?
 
Mithras,

You didn't answer my question. Provide quotes and dates. Support your assertion.

If you don't answer my question, I'll be forced to conclude that you can't.

Come on -- prove me wrong.
 
I am bemused by this. Not the Democratic Party versus Republican Party pissing match, which is fundamentally tedious and absurd.

Rather the actual conception in re Iraq. (Although the silliness re "terrorists in Iraq" remains pure silliness, there are terrorists in bloody Spain, and even here where I live. The criticism of the Bush Administration muddying the waters between 11 September terrorism and Iraq strikes me as just, although a bit of a losing proposition since few will truly understand it. Rather playing to their home audience, like the Bush Administration's muddying. Silly ideo-gits the lot of them)

I suppose this one in particular:
Our goal should be to kill and incarcerate all of them; this would be the war on terrorism's equivalent to our demand for unconditional surrender during World War II.

Fuzzy thinking this. It's quite impossible to "kill or incarcerate all of them." One can bloody well look to Tchechnia, or in the alternative, Algeria.

Goals should be rational and achievable, not ideo-posturing.

In any case, the author is right, a pull-out would be disastrous. I dislike the idea.

However, the menu of real options needs to be realistically conceived for a proper clear headed analysis. (not ideo-git posturing) Pulling out of Iraq would indeed be very costly. Probably a disaster. The proper question however, is what are the real alternatives: (i) continuation of the same, with what result, (ii) ramping up, with what result. Merely assuming success via continuation is not a proper approach to looking at the options.

Finally this is a silly pipe dream:
(4) the creation of a self-sufficient, stable, democratic Iraq would have a favorable demonstration effect throughout the Arab world.

Yes, well, so would having a car and a ranch house for every family and the world. It is not going to happen, however, in any realistic time frame. Not in a manner that is going to have a "demonstration effect" for the rest of the MENA region.

Finally the comment on shaking of will abetted by Democrats and a few Republicans is idiocy. Poor communication, bloody fantasy world scenarios and a lack of realism in selling the poorly planned fiasco has done that, not mere whinging on the Left and Right. Blaming others for the Bush Administration's incompetence in planning and proper strategic communications management, and indeed proper self-criticism to correct errors is much of what enabled these incomptent ideo-gits that run American policy at present to blunder on in Iraq to the point where the best case scenario is a semi-stable non-failure of a state.
 
Hi Col -

The great consistency of the Bush crowd is that whether a given policy is going well or poorly, their communication continuum runs from mediocre to counterproductive.

Re; Iraq, their are two viable strategies here.

1) To bite the bullet and continue to " train-up" select Iraqi government units while peeling away segments of the Sunni community from the insurgency through political patronage and other incentives until the insurgency begins to wind down into a nuisance level problem. This will take 2-5 more years but it can work *if* the Kurds & Shiites can hold it together politically.

2)Ensure that the Kurds and Shiites annihilate the Sunni radicals and their sympathizers in the advent of a full-blown civil war. Quick, dirty, brutal and pitiless counterinsurgency carried out by the potential victims of a Sunni-Baathist return. Not a best option or an attractive one from a moral perspective but one that could easily work.

I opt for # 1.
 
I can't disagree.

In my opinion the problem is the Bush Administration treats all communication from the point of view of an ideological political campaign playing to its core support (as do too many commentators) rather than from the view of grand communication a la Reagan or Blair.

A grave error.
 
I'm not entirely sure how seriously Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld etc.take the advice emanating up from this political core base vs. the need to keep this base placated and on the reservation.
 
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