June 29, 2005

I'm talking politics again, so if you have an exit strategy for reading this blog, now might be a good time for it

The CD player in my kitchen is dead so I actually listened to Bush's speech last night while doing the dishes. While most commentators seemed to be listening for a clear strategy for victory, I was hoping to hear something more basic: a definition of victory. Forget calendar-based timetables -- which I understand the argument against even if I'm not fully persuaded -- I'd be happy to hear a simple explanation of exactly what conditions will need to be achieved that will allow the US to withdraw, regardless of when that will be. That seems fair, doesn't it?

"A little over a year ago," Bush said, "I spoke to the nation and described our coalition's goal in Iraq." But in fact what he described a year ago was hardly specific enough to be called a goal. Here's the closest Bush has ever come to saying what would count as winning in Iraq:

"We will hand over authority to a sovereign Iraqi government..." Done! (OK, it depends on what the definition of "sovereign" is, but we'll give it to him)

"help establish security..." But we're helping to establish security already (for all the good it's doing), so the question is: what is our benchmark for when we have helped enough and can stop helping? All we've been told is that it's when the Iraqi forces can take over for us, but we've never been told how we'll know when they've reached that point. Is it when they can fight the insurgents as well as the US forces are? Since the US hasn't been able to stop the violence, wouldn't that mean abandoning Iraq to perpetual warfare, which is what we've promised not to do? Or are we supposed to believe that at some point the Iraqi military will actually be more competent than the US military? If you say so.... but even so, a simple explanation of what conditions need to be met in order for us to reach that conclusion has never been offered.

"continue rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure..." Let me get this straight: one condition of victory is to "continue" doing something? Doesn't that require being there forever? How will we know when we've rebuit enough?

"encourage more international support..." "Encourage more": See "continue"

"and move toward a national election that will bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people." Done! Yay! Let's go home!

Since Bush declined again to use last night's speech to define the terms of victory, what did he do? Well, it was mostly typical Bush "throw the spaghetti of rationales at the wall and see what sticks" but one lept out. To my knowledge, this is the first time he explicitly made flytrap theory the primary justification for the war. We'll see if Americans buy it.

Here's the question he flubbed badly: "Some Americans ask me, If completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops?"

His answer has two contradictory parts: 1: "If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them." 2: "Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave."

So either he's saying that if his commanders requested more troops for actual fighting, he would send them even though it would mean undermining our strategy (can I put scare quotes around both those words?), and therefore be self-defeating; or he's saying that for political reasons we can't send more troops even if we did need them for military ones. Clearly the truth is closer to the latter (plus, we don't really have more troops to send, and maybe he even knows that sending more troops would likely mean a longer, harder war rather than a quicker one). It's hard to miss the contradiction, which is why I don't think people are going to be comfortable with his reply.

Also, if sending more troops would "suggest that we intend to stay," why wouldn't withdrawing some suggest the opposite, and therefore be a positive thing? Has there been some calculation that the number of troops there now is exactly the right amount to send the precise message intended, or is Bush just talking out of his ass?

In conclusion, please let me know where I can buy a cheap boom box with a working CD player.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Exactly. Between not conveying information and suggesting straw men (the cut-and-runners) he had a pretty full plate of empty signifiers ('an ideology which hates freedom'), contradictions, and innuendo. It also seemed to me he was being paid by the minute; I've never heard anyone speak so slowly outside of a hospital.

Of course, I guess it would depend on your definition of

Not that I'm in favor of sending more troups.

Post a comment

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2