Democrats & Liberals Archives

My Response to Bush

President Bush must drop the pretense that his main opposition desires a premature pull out or any flagging of effort. He cannot criticize us for wanting a higher concentration of forces, then claim we want to cut and run.

We do remember 9/11, and also that Saddam Hussein’s government had nothing whatsover to do with it. We also remember that the Terrorists only showed up after we did. Were we to put this in terms of a Western, we could say the real villain showed up after we shot the wrong bad guy.

We had our choice of battlegrounds. Bush could have done us the favor of picking one where we had a real terrorists presence to vanquish. Our regret that we did not choose such a battlefield under Bush's watch is not a preference for an easier battle, but one where results would be akin to the kind we sought in Afghanistan- outright denial of a nation to a terrorist threat.

Bush criticizes our call for greater ground forces, saying that it will send the wrong message about our intent to stay. I say we've already sent that message by staying beyond the handover of sovereignty. Bush, despite his words, is fond of the kind of artificial timetable that he professes to loathe. He has shown that fondness by repeatedly pushing events like the handover, allowing developments to be made in name only, rather than make them when the society is ready. Progress in name only, he should know, is part of the source of our great frustration.

None of the proposals he puts forward are new, except that he explains them in greater detail. It sounds fine in theory, and I would hope they work out. Hope being the operative word. Question is, does it work in practice? Has Bush set things up so that there are remedies to the divisions that corruption, sectarian grudges, and ethnic hatreds have entrenched in the society? We will see.

As for Bush's glorious dream of converting the Middle East, it's just that. Bush should wonder where all those new jihadists are coming from. He lists countries which are Iraq's neighbors in the region, practically walking a circle around the country with this words. The countries supporting this insurrection the most are the ones he has highest hopes for.

What's more, the violence that we are shown pales in comparison to what they see. Moreover, their perspective on our attempts to bring freedom come in terms of a history of colonial oppression, an attack on co-religionists, speakers of a common language, and brothers in ethnicity. These are the commonalities that conspire to bring Arab public opinion squarely against us. Beautiful as Bush's vision is, it has a brutal reality to deal with, and like many beautiful things, it's lustre suffers badly for the beating it takes.

Again and again with this war, Bush's beautiful visions have met ugly deaths. The beautiful vision of a WMD stocked Iraq bristling with terrorists to fight. Of a war that could be fought on the cheap, with low casualties. Of an uprising of the people against their tyrannical master. Of a peace won through mere force of arms. Of a successful mission that would shame the UN into submission or irrelevance. Of a chain reaction of freedom, rather than terrorism. So on and so forth.

Bush is intoxicated with the way he dreams the world is, or should be. He is confident that he can change things, given the power, that doubters can be converted, and opponents battered into submission. With his might, things can be made right.

It's not surprising that many in the military support Bush. His visions coincide well with their career goals: change the world for the better with the force of arms. But Bush lacks the sort of hard-bitten focus on the details that separates dreamers who get things done from those who don't. He wants to be a leader, in the great abstract sense of the word, somebody who makes momentous things happen in the course of history. unfortunately, he forgets that many of the great leaders of history were also great planners, men who saw not only across history, but through it, into it.

Bush's failure, which he tries to paper over in this speech, is that he always underestimates the human element in foreign and domestic policy. He underestimates his opponent's ability to stray from his neat little expectations, underestimates his opponent's ability to be as stubborn and resolved as he is. Unfortunately, he has an entire party underestimating things right with them. They'd do better to take a more realistic view of things, even if their goals or beliefs never change.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at June 29, 2005 1:04 PM