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Why We Fight

“Iraqis will write their own history and find their own way. As they do, Iraqis can be certain a free Iraq will always have a friend in the United States of America.” - President George W. Bush outlining his sink or swim style of nation building.

President Bush laid out his 5-step program for post-war Iraq today. Finally there is a plan. Finally there is a "to do" list. Now we'll know when the job is done. We can check off boxes, and when all the tasks are done, we can leave. All of this should have been done a year and a half ago of course, but no one has ever said this administration was very bright.

The speech itself was 90% fluff and it's still very obvious that GW is a poor public speaker, but if you listened carefully you got the gist of the plan:

  • Hand over sovereignty to an Iraqi government
  • Establish security
  • Rebuild Iraq's infrastructure
  • Encourage international support
  • Hold national elections

The President also suggested tearing down Abu Ghraib prison. Predictably, he didn't give any credit to Wes Clark for that idea, though he did lavish praise on close family friend James Baker, who was instrumental in derailing a statewide recount in Florida which led to his installment as President.

I think the exit strategy President Bush laid out is the best we can hope for at this point. John Kerry also says the speech was short of groundbreaking and is adopting a wait and see attitude. In fact, the plan seems more of an acknowledgement of current events rather than proactive planning.

But I guess waiting so long to present a plan was a good move politically. Early on, the post-invasion talk was all about idealistic rambling of Jeffersonian democracy, a democracy so tasty that all the other countries in the region would want a lick. The reality will likely be a democratically elected theocracy (headed by al Sistani or his designated candidate) with close ties to Iran, a country we've declared part of the "axis of evil".

Early on, the post-invasion talk revolved around the disparagement of international support and the belief that the United States alone could bring a Pax Americana to the barbarians. The reality is that Bush's hand picked Iraqi Governing Council has no respect, and the UN was begged to create a new "legitimate" interim government. The reality is a draft mandate submitted to the UN yesterday. A mandate in which President Bush asks for UN involvement, but with US control of all armed forces and security. But he'll probably settle for either UN or joint Iraq-US control; whatever it takes to hand off this hot potato while retaining some dignity.

Early on, the post-invasion talk was of a quick, in and out strategy of nation building. The reality is one hundred thirty eight thousand US soldiers in Iraq for the duration and tens of thousands more ready to go when called. And they are expected to be called. The reality is a price tag for this adventure that includes 798+ dead American soldiers, 4,524+ wounded, and is now projected to cost tax payers more than four-times the total amount of the first Gulf War (of which, we only paid 20% - the rest was covered by our UN allies).

So politically, putting off the actual post-war planning turned out to be a good thing for the Bush administration. They were able to avoid the same sliding scale of expectations that marred their efforts at presenting a just cause for the invasion. Instead of an official expectation of a shining democratic Iraq, a beacon of liberty in a tyranny darkened region, we can cradle the newest child of our foreign policy and say, "You know, for an Iranian-style theocracy that breeds anti-US terrorism, it's not half bad. Mission accomplished."

Posted by American Pundit at May 25, 2004 3:28 AM