Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Bush’s Army War College speech

The President’s speech at the Army War College did one big thing: It probably stopped the apprehension (and even panic) about whether Iraq is melting into chaos. I happened to see Peter Galbraith (Demo sharpshooter and Clinton’s ambassador to Croatia) on the Lehrer Report just before Bush’s speech. He was not only pessimistic, but explicitly said that there will be a civil war because everything has gone wrong: our major mistake was that we treated Iraq as one country when it is actually three (etc.). It was a remarkably non-astute political performance (full of anger and vitriol) and Galbraith’s comments is a perfect reflection of the political rhetoric of Bush’s opponents: Bush has to admit that the whole thing--both the mission and its means--have proved wrong. If Bush admits that he has a plan, then he can’t admit his mistakes. Admit your mistakes, you arrogant SOB! Bring in more troops, if not more troops then UN troops, if not UN troops, then at least UN money. It goes on.

The point is that Bush’s opponents are now in an anachronistic and antedeluvian conversation with themselves: They are talking archeology, and Bush is talking space travel. They are angry as hornets that we are in Iraq, and have nothing to contribute to any private or public conversation that may have an effect on current policy. Hence the smell of pessimism, if not a wish for failure. Kerry says nothing on the most important political issue of the day, thereby seeming to agree with Bush’s policy, and supple mouth Biden just shakes his head and wants more detail: Now just what exactly does full sovereignty mean? Does the president have any control? Why isn’t the President leading? I’m not impressed.

Bush meanwhile holds to his purposes, while saying explictly that his means are flexible. He cites Fallujah and Karbala as examples of flexibility. He makes clear (as he always has) the deadline is important because it was a promise and because this will be the formal opportunity for the Iraqis to start taking full responsibility for their country. That means that we can begin thinking about leaving the country. Will post-June 30th be what is called full sovereignty? Will this mean that they may ask us to remove all our troops, and we would? Will it mean that our troops will be unable to conduct military action without the approval of the Iraqi government? It seems to me that it would have been imprudent of him to address such matters; better left to a subaltern like Powell to say that certainly we would remove the troops if asked. That is all that has to be said on the matter. Anything any more exlicit would be insulting and imprudent. Not everything should be made perfectly clear.

Is Bush making a mistake by letting Brahimi choose the whole darn government? Not necessarily; besides, Brahimi will not be doing it alone, both he and the UN carry the kind of baggage that they need help with. That there is some serious (even, God forbid, Machiavellian) politics going on here is obvious, perhaps some of it even has to do with Chalabi and the UN oil-for-food corruption, and Iran, and Syria. Perhaps it should not surprise us that the Arab League is calling for reform in their neighborhood. What is it that they understand that Biden and CNN don’t? What we call Byzantine politics is a mere kindergarten compared to the politics of the Arab world. Can things go wrong? Of course. There are a thousand and one possibilities for mischief. Will they go wrong? Only some will, and a betting man will bet the reasonable odds, which are in our favor. Why? Because I am confident of all the details? No. Because perserverence is a great virtue in times of war, and the chance factors have a way of falling into your line if you push your designs. I believe Bush is pushing. Also, it is clearly in the interest of Iraqis to make this work. I believe they know this and will try mightily to take advantage of an opportunity. Yet, I realize there is no guarantee of success. I’m trying not to trick myself into unwarranted optimism. But I will not fall into the pessimism and the archeological mode of his opponents in the elite media. Let them return to the so called horrors of Abu Ghraib at first light tomorrow (and don’t be surprised if all the headlines read "Bush to demolish notorious prison"; the elites will take this to be the most important part of the speech), get more pictures, try to implicate everyone from Sanchez to Rumsfeld, and hope for the worst. Let them, and the people will think progressively less of them, and the disjunction between the liberal elites and people will become a chasm. In the meantime Iraq is being constructed and they have nothing interesting to say about it. They are turning into background chatter, indistinguishable from one another, always there like elevator music. But such music moves no one and after a while you can’t even hear it.

One last note. I liked to way he delivered the speech: sober and thoughtful. I also liked that he called upon Islam to regain its former greatness when they

"think and work and worship as free men and women, they will reclaim the greatness of their own heritage." Pretty good. Why not? Maybe they can rediscover Aristotle one more time.

Discussions - 10 Comments

Mr Schramm,
It certainly isn’t surprising that you throw around the right wing propagandist labels of "media elite" in an attempt to discredit any legitimate criticism of the Bush administration. Here’s the sad situation Mr Schramm, the trust of the Iraqi people is melting faster than an ice cream cone in the Iraqi desert. Insurgence has greatly increased, and the misconduct at Abu Ghraib (and other prisons, it seems) have aggravated the distrust of America. Here’s a radical thought for you to ponder: What impact could have been made if President Bush had stepped up immediately wiht the revelations of Abu Ghraib and showed some true outrage at the abuse. A heartfelt apology to the Iraqi people on behalf of all America and demonstrable outrage with a vow to severely punish everyone involved would have gone far in showing our moral principles weren’t reflected in that behavior. OF course, this is pure fantasy, since it’s been amply demonstrated that George W Bush is incapable of apologizing for ANYTHING...

Rick Derrig

Didn’t he do exactly what you are asking for? Or should you have phrased it "he apologized, but just not sincerely enough"?

Paul Oliu

It’s clear to me now that George Bush really has no idea how to end this, sigh, I’m getting tired of empty pep talks, I always thought that we should have just fought the war on terror and atleast waited to go into Iroq until we won that one, but even when we went in I thought we could win both, but now I am starting to think were gunna lose the this war in Iroq, terror is going to get worse, and yup the democrats are going to kill us in the election. Now is the time I hate you all the most for not voiting for John McCain when you had the chace. Oh well theres always 2008.

Pull your head out of the sand or whatever dark place you have placed it- this IS part of the War on Terror. If we do not change significantly the politcal makeup and culture of the region we are doomed to ever increasing attacks in number and lethality. The left always whines about "root causes", well this is the first step in correcting them. Oppression breeds Extremism. If we cannot provide a better alternative than the ones provided by OBL and the Baathists than we risk losing far more than the relatively light casualties we have taken so far.
Besides, AQ has been forced to the plate in Iraq, would you rather our Marines take them on or soccer moms at the mall?
The cowardice and weakness exhibited by this country over the past few weeks is shameful- Our troops deserve better. Was OBL right? are we a decadent paper tiger ready to cut & run?

Well, this election will show us the answer........

It’s very sad to me when I here people in my party speak like you do Mr. Owen. I’m sorry but I just will not follow blindly into the darkness anymore, I never signed on for some grand plan to convert the middle east, history teaches us that crusades down around that region dont go so well.
I belive we were and still are doing the right thing in Afghanistan, we were winning the war on terror. Iroq, on the other hand was a mistake, we gave them new battle grounds to fight on, new ways to make us look bad in the eyes of the world. It was a fight we did not have to take on at this time and in this mannor.
On a personal note, the forceful nature and tone of your post is disturbing, some of the points you make are not worth responding to, but I will say this, you are correct when you say Our troops deserve better, not for the reason you stated but because they are fighting and laying down there lives for our ideals, right or wrong we sent them into the breach and every day on the news you see there sacrafice in our name, I am a patriot Mr. Owens, please do not question that. To quote you sir: Oppression breeds Extremism.
I pray I am not alone.


A Patriot you may be sir, but one who does nort wish to face the threats that have been visited upon us.

"Iroq, on the other hand was a mistake, we gave them new battle grounds to fight on,"

Again, I would rather our Marines fight them there than our wives and kids face them at the mall. You may or may not be okay with carbombs here, but I am personnally opposed to the concept. If you have ever studied anything on military tactics, it is always best to to pick the battleground when possible.

" new ways to make us look bad in the eyes of the world."

Looking good in the eyes of the world sure did a lot for the sailors on the USS Cole, our embassy personnel (and a lot of unfortunate people who happened to be on the street) in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, and the poor secretaries falling jumping from the towers on 9/11.

" It was a fight we did not have to take on at this time and in this mannor."

Iraq under Saddam was a festering wound. With the Corrupt UN in his pocket and the French and Russians lined out with oil concession contracts, it was only a matter of time until the sanctions were lifted. People who say we had him contained need a serious reality check- We were on the verge of being tossed out of Saudi Arabia because our infidel presence was upsetting their internal situation. How would we contain him then? Besides, if you find a cockroach in the kitchen, do you contain it? remove/kill it? Containment has a place when war would threaten your very existence, Saddam didn’t. Leaving him in power over the long term did.

I make no apologies for my forceful tone. I am an ex Cav trooper who has a lot of buds in theater who believe strongly in what they are doing, and are winn ing the battles on every front: political, military, and social- and all I see is a bunch of hand wringing, complaining, and foolish ideals that would make Chamberlain and the the proponents of the Maginot Line proud. Study history so we are not doomed to repeat it.

Mr. Owens, it is your narrow views of the world, and the self rightous policys of all the so called neo-cons that will be the death of the republican party in november, just remember that, Is your policy of we need to change everybody to what we want worth a john kerry victory. but then thats irrelavant cuz " There gunna get us!" right?
Its funny how you find it nessary to try to insult someones intelegents in all your postings, I wonder why that is?
Maybe its just that you find the rest of us inferrior and belive you know best for us.

Bison- First, I am rather well versed in the ways of the world outside our borders, since I have studied history and geopolitics for years out of interest. From my military experience I am travelled, and I have many contacts around the world. One can be Intelligent as well as ignorant- Intelligence means capacity to learn, while ignorant means no knowledge of topic. I do not challenge your Intelligence (although your atrocious spelling makes that difficult), rather the apparent ignorance of your position, which you have been either unwilling or incapable to defend with anything more than bland emotive statements.

Thank you for making my case, just could’ent help yourself could you.
sorry to tell you,
The day of the neo-con’s is just about over.

Let’s hatch some chickens first, then count them.

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