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.