The more things don’t change, the more they’re the same
President Bush’s speech was the same as we’ve heard before: (1) our national defense depends, absolutely and crucially, on our defeating our enemies in Iraq; (2) we’re continuing to fight them; but (3) our main efforts are toward building up the new Iraqi government and the new Iraqi military so they can take over the battle.
In Bush’s account, I see a major non sequitur and two total blank spaces.
The major non sequitur: if Iraq is absolutely crucial to our national security, as Bush claims, then why aren’t we doing much more against the enemy ourselves instead of trying to pass the battle off to the Iraqis? True, Bush offered an answer of sorts to this question, that if we build up our forces, Iraqis will get the feeling that we’re never leaving and that will make it harder to win them over to our side. But that’s not an adequate reply. If defeating this enemy is so vital to us that it makes this whole awful insurgency war in Iraq so necessary, then we have to defeat the enemy, period. Bush’s lack of ideas for increasing our effectiveness against the enemy suggests that he thinks the enemy are just going to fade away on their own, as I’ve discussed recently.
The first total blank space: Bush said nothing of a particular nature about the enemy, such as what the enemy is doing now, why the enemy is able to keep hitting our side with one major suicide attack after another, and, most importantly, what any of our efforts have to do or will have to do with defeating this enemy. The “completion of the mission,” a phrase Bush used several times, remained vague. He didn’t exactly pick up on Secretary Rumsfeld’s theme that “we are not going to win in Iraq, the Iraqis are going to,” though he was ambiguous in this area (see above). Rather, he seemed to be saying that we must win, and, as we win, the Iraqis will somehow become competent to assure their security and freedom and then we will be able to leave. More on the basis of hope than anything else, Bush assures us that all these things are going to happen and fit together.
The second total blank space: Though making Iraq the focus of this absolutely crucial battle for our national survival against a deadly enemy, Bush said nothing about the enemy outside Iraq. Everything was Iraq, Iraq, Iraq. It’s the same magical thinking as always: if we just keep our narrow focus on Iraq, somehow all other problems will be solved by themselves.
The speech was broad brush strokes without details and without perspective. I can’t imagine any thoughtful person feeling confident in this president’s statements, plans, and leadership.