Friday, January 12, 2007

Bush Speaks

One of George Bush’s many problems when speaking to the American people on Iraq (along with general inarticulateness and a complete lack of credibility) is his lack of an appropriate speaking style for a serious speech. Bush has several speaking styles – Belligerent, Patronizing, and Aw Shucks (the latter used for self-deprecating humor and being a good ol’ boy). None of those was actually useful for this speech, which called for Reaganesque grandeur or Clintonian sincerity. So W was left with a style which seemed a cross between deer in the headlights and catatonia – not the most persuasive mode of delivery.
Of course, the biggest problem was not stylistic but substantive. The speech could be broken down into three themes: Hope and Glory, Gloom and Doom, and Don’t Mess With Texas.
The Hope and Glory portion featured the plan to add troops, embed them with Iraqi units, divide the city of Baghdad into zones, and bring security to the Iraqi people. Toss in a few billion for a jobs program and reconstruction and you have a plan. And the Maliki government will do it right this time, not just because this was their idea, but because there will be benchmarks, along with a series of steps they have to take – rewriting the constitution, sharing oil revenues, disarming militias – that will bring stability and a shared sense of purpose to Iraq and its people.
One might ask what the threat is if they don’t meet the benchmarks. Bush said that if they fail, they will lose the support of the American people. Now, the American people don’t support this whole mess, so this doesn’t seem like a real threat. John Burns of the NY Times has made the point that the real threat is to replace Maliki and that we have someone waiting in the wings to do what we want done if he doesn’t. If this is the case, and I trust Burns reporting here, the “American people” Bush is referring to are located in the west wing of the White House. Bush must know that Maliki can’t take on the Mehdi Army, since Al-Sadr’s support is necessary for him to stay in power. So this is just a first step in changing more than just the rules of engagement, but the government of Iraq itself.
The Doom and Gloom portion started with a dandy mention of 9/11 – required in all Bush foreign policy addresses – and led to the collapse of the Middle East, combined with a terrorist haven in Iraq which would use oil money to finance another attack on us. In other words, we’re fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here. And if we pull out, no one will respect us – they won’t be able to trust our word or our resolve in the future. And the moderate regimes in that area who are sort of friendly with us will come under attack. Nothing new here except the depth of the gloom. Which begs the question – what if this doesn’t work? If we agree to the premise of the extreme destabilization of the region if we fail, what happens if the Iraqi government and army don’t do what we need/want them to? Given the overwhelming opposition among our citizenry to any expansion of the war and a sizable increase in our forces, the notion that we can’t fail there is logically unsustainable.
The Don’t Mess With Texas portion is the really scary part. Threatening not just Maliki, but Syria, and scariest of all, Iran. That Ahmadenijad would love to have the U.S. actually attack him seems to not have entered Bush’s mind at all. That is consistent with his total inability to understand how anyone thinks in that part of the world. Our moving a carrier group and a cruise missiles into the region is really scary – they have no functionality in Iraq, so why are they there? Bush is very good at making threats to be backed up by the lives of young American soldiers. That he is a fool is hard to dispute, that he is a dangerous fool is unnerving, to say the least. Joe Biden has threatened a “constitutional confrontation” if Bush expands the war into Iran, but what exactly will he do? Will he cut off all funding for the war? With over 100,000 Americans in Iraq, that will be hard to do. Will he just try for a selective denial of money? How will that work, exactly? Bush has shown a consistent inclination to do what he pleases in the face of opposition, claiming commander-in-chief powers far beyond anything intended by the founding fathers. Starting a legal battle will not stop any action against Iran, just muddy the waters during the fighting. The attack on an Iranian diplomatic consulate in Kurdistan yesterday is just one more instance of a country on the brink, ready to launch yet another front in the “war on terror”. The real war is Bush’s war on sanity, a war which he lost long ago and which we are all paying for.


Blogger samG said...

Not that it matters but the question I haven't heard W asked lately (I did not watch the 60 minutes interview since that would have required listening to him speak) goes something like this: If this is truly the epic battle of this millenium, which I assume he thinks is between western civility and modernity versus Islamic fundamentalism, violence and rejection of the evolution of the Koranic text, why is it that virtually no other country or significant entity sees it this way with the possible exception of Israel for whom this is a matter of short term survival? Countries with closer geographical proximity and, presumably more at risk if the region de-stabilizes, don't see it his way. Even the British are removing troops. How is it that a handful of U.S. politicians, most of whom have no experience beyond the North American borders, foresee an Armageddon that no one else sees on the radar screen

7:55 AM  
Blogger Barry Rubinowitz said...

To be fair, the other countries in the region, while not seeing it as a battle of cultures, have almost unanimously told us not to leave. The Saudis, in a meeting with Cheney, pretty much ordered us to stay, or else they would go in to defend the Sunnis from extermination. In fact, at the moment, they are making noises about sending troops because they don't think our plan will prevent the slaughter.
I worry less about Bush foreseeing Armageddon than about Bush rooting for it.

5:32 PM  

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