Third Party & Independents Archives

No Exit

Last week, George W. Bush rose to speak before a mute audience at the United Nations General Assemby. There was a certain irony in Bush’s speech—Bush represents a political party which is seeking to do as much as it can to dismantle the U.N.’s status in the world. Last year, the U.S. launched the invasion of Iraq with flagrant disregard to the anti-war sentiment within the U.N. Security Council. Now, Bush was appearing before the U.N. saying the war was undertaken to support U.N. Security Council objectives. No one was fooled.

But there is a second irony, less obvious, which I would like to note in this column: Bush's high-minded declarations of nation-building (does anyone really believe Iraq is now sovereign?) run in direct contravention to his stated foreign policy objectives during the 2000 campaign. In 2000, Bush made two things abundantly clear: he would not engage in nation-building and he would not engage U.S. military forces without an exit strategy. Bush has violated both tenets.

Forget for a moment that the war was launched on false premises, that it has alienated the vast majority of the world community (including, polls will indicate, most residents of Britain, Japan, and other supposed supporters), and that--at least up until now--the war appears to be an impossible quagmire with no immediate hope for resolution, a quagmire that each day costs more U.S. lives and drains more U.S. resources away from badly needed homeland security and domestic priorities--and away from fighting the real war on terror, the one which tracks down the a-holes responsible for Sept. 11 and lets the world know that anyone who attacks the U.S. will ultimately pay the price.

Forget about that for a moment. Other columns have addressed and will continue to address those issues. What I want to say here is that Bush is a hypocrite. A flip-flopper, if you will. Here is what Bush had to say during the presidential debates--at a time when he was seeking to paint Clinton's interventions in Haiti and Kosovo in a poor light.

Bush was asked the following question during his first debate with Al Gore: How would you go about, as president, deciding when it was in the national interest to use US force, generally?

Bush gave the following answer:

Well, if it's in our vital national interests, and that means whether or not our territory -- our territory is threatened, our people could be harmed, whether or not our alliances are -- defense alliances are threatened. Whether or not our friends in the Middle East are threatened. That would be a time to seriously consider the use of force.

Secondly, whether or not the mission was clear; whether or not it was a clear understanding as to what the mission would be. Thirdly, whether or not we were prepared and trained to -- to -- win. Whether or not our forces were of high morale and high standing and well-equipped. And finally, whether or not there was an exit strategy.

I would take the use of force very seriously. I would be guarded in my approach. I don't think we can be all things to all people in the world. I think we've got to be very careful when we commit our troops. The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation-building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation-builders. I believe the role of the military is to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.

That was on Oct. 3, 2000. In the third and final presidential debate, Bush said something along similar lines:

Your question was deployment. It must be in the national interests. It must be in our vital interest whether we ever send troops. The mission must be clear. Soldiers must understand why are we going. The force must be strong enough so that the mission can be accomplished. And the exit strategy needs to be well-defined.

"The mission must be clear."

What was the mission in Iraq? The mission, as stated, was to prevent Saddam Hussein from using weapons of mass destruction. As it turns out, the WMD alarm was based on bogus documents far more damaging than the dubious memos broadcast by Dan Rather. Why do the same people who support firing Rather oppose firing Bush? Good question.

Back to my point. Bush said a mission must be clear, strong, with an exit strategy. In Iraq, the mission has not been clear. It has meandered from stopping WMDS to getting rid of Saddam Hussein to God-knows-what; nation-building, mostly, the very goal Bush said he did not intend to pursue. Bush said in 2000 "the force must be strong"; but by most estimates, he only committed one-third of the ground troops needed to stabilize Iraq (it would have helped if he had broadened the scope of his alliances beyond his shallow list of "bribed and coerced" partners to a list that included real ground assistance, Britain excepting).

Equipment hasn't arrived on time, training hasn't taken place as planned, strategic planning and intelligence advice has been ignored.

Furthermore, Bush said he would not enter a military deployment without an exit strategy. What is Bush's exit strategy here? While the White House had books filled with analysis of what a post-war Iraq might look like (including warnings about the potential for looting, insurgency, and civil war), it is unclear whether the president any time reviewing them (he has, after all, indicated publicly his disdain for reading).

The original outline Bush provided was okay: military deployment should be done reluctantly, but with full force and clear, realizable objectives. But Bush has not remained true in any way, shape, or form to this platform.

In the same way "No Child Left Behind" says staff should be held accountable for the performance of students, Bush needs to be held accountable for the performance of his administration. How would I describe that performance?

Three words: No exit strategy.

Posted by Ed West at September 27, 2004 1:32 AM