February 03, 2005

The SOTU Overall

A confident Bush, who delivered his speech well, and signaled that he was now a seasoned second-termer (the "gray" hair). Still, no great sparks. I'll leave parsing the compassionate conservative notes (lawyers for death row inmates) or the short shrift given to DOMA for others to discuss. And still, there was the requisite grist for social conservatives. Tactically, from a Roveian perspective, the speech was just fine and kept the 'Big Tent' intact. Social Security? Hey, I bought some Merck this year. It, er, wasn't a thrilling experience. But I'm open to hear more about his plan. Devil's in the details, of course. On foreign policy, 'keep on scrolling' below, as Glenn would say. Bottom line: nothing on the foreign policy end of the speech was really surprising (no "axis of evil" declaration, say). Still, some good initiatives in the offing. We are apparently going to have a real-go at resucitating the Middle East peace process. More intense dialogues with Riyadh and Cairo about lessening the dominance of the executive branches there, likely. Damascus is feeling real heat--but there will not be a military confrontation with Asad's regime. Iran, status quo for now--but the UNSC sanctions debate looms if the Euro-trokia fumbles (they likely will). It was good to loudly announce that there would be no artificial timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. Ditto it was also good to tie Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq to the Ukraine example--analogizing the democratization of these Middle Eastern and South Asian countres during Bush's watch to the dramatic events that recently unfolded in Kiev. But, as I said, no big surprises. Bush did what he had to do, business-like almost, with some command and a confident delivery. But this lacked the historical drama of the 9/20/01 speech (an unfair standard perhaps), or, say, the newfangled 'axis of evil' policy shift of a previous SOTU. It was good, but not great. That's OK. It's just one speech. There will be many more. And actual execution of policy, besides, matters much more than how Bush delivers his lines on any given night.

Posted by Gregory at February 3, 2005 05:11 AM | TrackBack (9)
Comments

True, it was not a "great" speech, but a great speech requires a great speaker, which President George W. Bush is not. Nevertheless, it was one of his best, and I think, contrary to Greg, it does signal a shift in policy of bringing more pressure to bear on leaders in the Middle East to be more receptive to the development of democratic institutions in their countries which, to date (and with the indulgence of the United States) has not been a priority.

Posted by: The opinionated pawn at February 3, 2005 08:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As we saw last night in the SOTU address, Bush continues to advance the fallacy that we are fighting "terrorists" in Iraq, instead of an indigenous resistance.

Besides the fact that Osama Bin Laden has been enjoying life and freedom over three YEARS longer than his thousands of victims and apparently feels secure enough to make videotapes from a television studio, it is now obvious that our political and military leaders are now substituting the word "terrorist" for "insurgent" at every opportunity--even when attacks on U.S. troops occur, which by definition are not terrorist acts since they are directed against our military. Recently, in response to a reporter's question about an attack on U.S. troops in Iraq, General Myers stated "these are the same terrorists who attacked us on September 11th."

As casualities continue to mount and public support for this mess falls further, expect to hear repeatedly and insistently that instead of insurgents our battle is against "terrorists"---the same terrorists, we are supposed to infer, who were responsible for 9/11. And if we can't infer it, they will tell us.

When the mission creeps, the language must creep with it.

Ask yourself this: What would YOU do if the U.S. was invaded by the Chinese on false pretenses in a grab for natural resources, and the Chinese built permanent bases all over the U.S.--making it very clear that they had no intention of EVER leaving?

Then, what would you do if the Chinese shut down your religious newsletter, destroyed your church, took over your town, broke into your house in the middle of the night, arrested, tortured and sexually abused your friends, and killed your childen and your parents at a checkpoint because they did not slow down enough? Don't think "we're capable" of that? Really? You might want to look at this, and wonder how many other times it has happened in Iraq without a photographer present to record it for history:

http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2005/01/19/international/19iraq.ready.html

As a patriot, if that photo was taken in your nation, would you fight the occupiers any way you could?

The vast majority of those who resist our occupation in Iraq are NOT terrorists. They are fighting against an invasion and an occupation by whatever means necessary. When the colonists in the young United States fought against the British during the American Revolution, the colonists were considered "terrorists" by the British, because they used unconventional hit and run tactics, and because they would not stand in a straight line and fight like the British had been doing for centuries. And in case you did not know it: The colonial fighters also attacked and killed fellow Americans who sympathized or cooperated with the British--and there were many.

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. If we were invaded by the Chinese on false pretenses, I hope YOU would fight hard and smart enough to be called a "terrorist" in China.

Or do I overestimate you?

Posted by: DCShadow at February 3, 2005 09:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

DCShadow -

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter? What a load of CRAP.

Freedom fighters don't:

Strap bombs to mentally retarded victims and send them towards search areas

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,12111475%255E2703,00.html

They also don't drag their countrymen off buses and summarily execute them:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/02/03/iraq.main/index.html

So spare me your hypotheses and rationalization for murder - these are bad people who want to meet Allah in the worst possible way. Our job is to arrange the meeting.

DC

Posted by: DC at February 3, 2005 03:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

DCSHADOW

Your statement that, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," represents one of the greatest fallacies of our time, because it simply accepts that the ends justifies the means. It is time for the United States, and the rest of the world, to renounce the concept that "The enemey of my enemey is my friend," and accept the principle that, when those, even those with whose goals and objectives we agree, engage in acts of terrorism to achieve their goals, then they have lost the right to claim legitimacy for their actions. It is not impossible to pursue freedom without resort to terrorism.

Posted by: The Opinionated Pawn at February 3, 2005 04:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As you will note, my above response to the posting by DCshadow included a gross error in spelling (i.e. "enemey"). I ask apologize for this, but note the following:

1 It's a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word. ~Andrew Jackson

2 I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way. ~Mark Twain

3. Correct English is the slang of prigs who write history and essays. ~George Eliot, Middlemarch, 1872

4. Correct spelling, indeed, is one of the arts that are far more esteemed by schoolma'ams than by practical men, neck-deep in the heat and agony of the world. ~Henry Louis Mencken, The American Language

Posted by: The Opinionated Pawn at February 3, 2005 05:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Indigenous resistance and terrorism are not mutually exclusive terms. There are tens of thousands of Iraqis buried in mass graves all over the country. They didn't get there by themselves; they were put there by the same people the coalition forces are fighting now.

I understand doubts about how the Iraq war started, and share some of them. But no one should ever again repeat the great sin and shame of the anti-Vietnam War movement, which was to romanticize an enemy that proudly stands for barbarism and the worst aspects of human nature.

Posted by: Zathras at February 3, 2005 05:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If another nation or bloc of nations wanted to impose a political philsophy on the United States, would we allow it?

If another nation or bloc of nations demanded that we give up our weapons of mass destruction because we are a threat to world security, would we give up those weapons?

If a bloc of nations demanded the right to put military bases in the United States, or made treaties with nations surrounding the U.S. for base- rights, would we tolerate that?

I doubt it? If we wouldn't permit such things, why do we demand them of others?

Posted by: Munir Umrani at February 3, 2005 06:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A while back, I wrote a short story about aliens landing and taking over 1940's America. These aliens were innately disgusting to humans, but they did away with Colored and White drinking fountains, instituted the use of vaccines against diseases, and generally helped out in the interest of turning Humanity into a peaceful culture so that several centuries later when we were starfaring we would not be a trouble to them.

The hero at first joined the Resistance, but when he found them hiding in school buildings while school was in session, and betraying flags of truce to kill an alien (it was the only way they could manage it), and the aliens pointed out that Humanity's problem was going to be solved one way or the other. I.e. Learn to be peaceful, or they would turn the sun into a supernova was our choice.

And despite hating the four armed, bright orange skinned aliens, the hero realized the right thing to do, and joined them, and helped fight the Resistance.

Tadeusz

Posted by: Tadeusz at February 3, 2005 07:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, I for one, was disgusted at the recent acts of the "minutemen" recklessly endangering the life of a poor defenseless toy soldier.

Tat was contrary to every aspect of the Uniform Product code.

;)

On a more serious note. Munir. They could try and demand or do all these things of the US. Go for it, see what happens.

bravo for you Zathras.

Posted by: capt joe at February 3, 2005 07:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When people argue that the 'resistance is really freedom fighters' they assume that the people of Iraq agree.

The people of Iraq do not!

The silent majority of Iraq has spoken with their dyed fingers and proud and brave stand against the insurgents.

So you armchair freedom fighters can put your placards away for another day. You've lost this one.

Posted by: Syl at February 3, 2005 07:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

With all due respect, I think that there was a great spark.

The embrace of comfort and thanks between an Iraqi woman who lost her father to Saddam and a women who lost her son in the fight against the thugs animated by the spirit of Saddam so that the Iraqi woman and others could, by voting, peacefully reject Saddam, Jihadis, and their works is an image that should reverberate from the mountain tops and lay low the apologists of islamofacism.

Posted by: Ray at February 3, 2005 07:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Agree with Syl, the Iraq Election has convinced me, and I have been full of doubts about our purpose in Iraq and critical of the many blunders the Bush Administration has made, that the Iraqi majority does not support the insurgents and does not wish to be ruled by them.

Posted by: David All at February 4, 2005 12:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

PS: The Iraqi insurgency with its support only among the formerly ruling Sunni minority reminds me a lot more of the die hard white Afrikaner minority in South Africa, if they had violently opposed the transition to majority rule, then they do of the Patriots of the American Revolution. Both Sunni and Afrikaners were ruling minorities who were and in case of the Sunni Insurgents, still are, determined to hang on to being their countries' rulers.

Posted by: David All at February 4, 2005 12:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

PPS: Opinionated Pawn, Thanks for those remarks about correct spelling! They remind me of the saying about consistancy being the mark of a small mind!

Posted by: David All at February 4, 2005 01:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There are two types of government.

By democracy, thru free elections.
Or by death squads.

The anti-Iraqi "insurgents" want gov't by death squads; as was the practice under Saddam, and WOULD be the practice if the US left "too soon", and WAS the practice, again, in Fallujah between April and November, 2004.

Should America fight evil gov't by death squad?
Yes.
Even if good people die?
Yes.

And we rightly honor, as heroes, those who DID die, in fighting the evil death squads that have been, and are being, fought.


I wish that Sudan would be next up as a target. NOT a "threat" to the US, merely a genocide that hasn't passed the UN "global test".

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at February 4, 2005 02:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think for most of the speech that Bush sounded as patronizing as Gore or Kerry ever were. His harshly clipped words and overstressed key phrases were tiresome and annoying. He sounded as if he were working very hard to do well something he hates: talking to 'the little people.' ( one of Barbera Bush's favorite phrases.. )

Liberty Dad, you have an anemic theory of government. There are far more possiblities then your false choice of "holy democracy" vs. "death squad tyranny."

You might think it's a good idea to go looking for foreign wars to fight. If so, I hope you've got plenty of family in the military, the better to feel the costs of your opinions.

Since you sound like a holy roller, lemme remind you that 'natural Christianity,' as practiced by that pinnacle of Christianity; The Roman Church, was anti-democratic as any tinpot dictatorship. If America really does become a "Christian Nation," there will be nothing but tyranny here too, and most of the victims will be Christian ...

Posted by: Archie at February 5, 2005 12:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hair-trigger blog triumphalism racks the right wing blogosphere again. A particularly egregious example is the poster who is moved to tears by the image of a rich iraqi exile---part of Chalabi's group of liars that got us into the war---hugging an american: when I want high drama, I read James Dobson's account of wrestling with a dog.

Actually I'm happy the election occurred, just as I was happy that Saddam was captured, and happy that there were no loose nukes in Iraq.
Let's see what happens now. It seems that the restraint of the Kurds and Shiites is holding---I hope that continues.

Posted by: marky at February 5, 2005 05:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Munir, we demand all those things of other countries because we think we can.

We don't demand any of them of china, because if we did they would politely deny them and then laugh behind our backs.

If we get considerably weaker and some strong nation demands those things of us, we will resist. Then if we find out we aren't strong enough to resist after all we will have to fold.

It isn't a question of might makes right. It's only a question of might is might. We do what we can get away with because we can get away with it.

Posted by: J Thomas at February 5, 2005 06:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The Iraqi insurgency with its support only among the formerly ruling Sunni minority "

David, what do you know about the insurgency?

Most of the press releases claiming to be the insurgency come from Zarqawi, but we don't seem to have much confirmation how important Zarqawi is in the insurgency. We don't have much confirmation how united it is, or even how many there are. Our estimate is there are about 20,000 of them, which is about the same number we thought they had before we killed about 45,000 of them.

Look at it this way. The big majority of iraqis are willing to tell opinion polls that they want us gone, even after 30+ years where telling the truth to somebody on the street could get them in big trouble. The insurgents are the ones who're ready to attack us to get us gone. The rest hope they can vote to get us to go away (kind of like the mice voting to bell the cat).

You don't know much about the insurgency and neither do I. What we mostly hear about are the insurgents who get a lot of publicity -- head-choppers, foreign suicide bombers, that sort of thing. These are the kind of insurgency that most governments would be *glad* to have -- tremendously unpopular types who bring in support to the government on an "enemy of my enemy" basis. We know hardly anything about the other insurgents except they keep attacking no matter how many of them we kill and no matter how many innocent civilians we kill who happen to be in the area.

Posted by: J Thomas at February 5, 2005 07:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"It's just one speech. There will be many more. And actual execution of policy, besides, matters much more than how Bush delivers his lines on any given night."

Yes. "Watch what they do, not what they say."

Posted by: J Thomas at February 5, 2005 07:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J Thomas, I am sorry to disagree with you. Have no doubt that most Iraqis want us gone as soon as possible. Also clear from the election that Iraqis do not want to be ruled by the insurgents and terrorists who tried to keep them from voting. Tricky situation to be sure, but with our help, the Iraqi majority can put together a popular government capable of standing on its own two feet and defeating the insurgency. As soon as Iraqis have a government capable of standing alone, the US should get out of Iraq as quickly as we can.

Posted by: David All at February 12, 2005 02:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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