July 06, 2005

Bush in West Virginia...

...yesterday:

"On July 4, 1776, more than five years of the Revolutionary War still lay ahead."

Bush isn't really saying it directly--and some will find the direct analogizing to the American War of Independence disingenuous--but it is clear that he is continuing (if indirectly) to walk-back Cheney's absurdist "last throes" statement. The subtext of the above quote was clear: Iraq may take years yet.

Posted by Gregory at July 6, 2005 01:22 AM | TrackBack (10)
Comments

Oh cripes. Was he also saying that the Freemasons and the Pentaverate had met, and determined that the All-Seeing Eye had found a proper place for the seat of government?

Who knew conservatives read Eco?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim at July 6, 2005 01:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Of course President Bush was talking about our current situation. He mentions the need to maintain our "resolve" -- the latest buzz-word -- a couple sentences later.

The only reason for Bush to say what he said was to walk-back Cheney's statement.

Posted by: Andrew Steele at July 6, 2005 03:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I cannot resist the observation that the process of "walking back" Vice President Cheney's comment about the Iraqi insurgency's imminent demise is being treated by both participants and observers like the disarming of a live land mine.

This is absurd. A strong President would not need to pussyfoot around for weeks in response to an obviously thoughtless remark made by his Vice President about a major policy issue, evidently without having been cleared by anyone. Dan Quayle would not have been allowed to have a similar remark stand for more than a day before having to apologize for making it, and Bush's father does not rank among the most forceful Presidents this country has ever had.

I'm not clear on just how much credit we are supposed to give the weak man in the White House for having the courage to disagree indirectly with his own Vice President through a reference to Revolutionary War history. I'm also not clear on how many years the commitment to Iraq is intended to last. Two? Five? Twelve? As long as it takes, as much borrowed money as it takes, as much foreign-policy-as-social-work as it takes, is I suppose the approved answer in a White House that isn't thinking about a real answer because it is approaching this entire subject with a policy improvised one day at a time. But the approved answer does show resolve, and we all know how important that is.

Posted by: JEB at July 6, 2005 07:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We dont know how long it will take JEB. 12 years is how long its taken to FULLY squash SOME guerrila insurgencies - Malaysia is the 12 year example, I think. Thats a fact. 5 years is how much of the American Revolution was left on July 4 1776. Thats another fact. 2 years is how long it will probably take to have 160,000 fully capable Iraqi troops - thats a projection, but one based on interpretation of facts shared by Sen. Biden. None of which says how long we will be in Iraq. Or how long the insurgency will last (which are not the same thing, BTW - Iraqi forces will likely be able to fight against a low level insurgency on their own)

So how long will the Taliban insurgency last in Afghanistan? I dont know.

Dont like Foreign policy as "social work" then I suggest moving to another planet - on this one, we cant ignore whats happening on the ground in the muslim world and expect to remain secure.

Posted by: liberalhawk at July 6, 2005 02:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Arab News Editorial

Perhaps they [ordinatry Sunnis] are beginning to believe that an insurrection that once engaged their support is turning into an indefensible negation of all decent values. They may begin looking more seriously at the route to a diverse but fully representative Iraq offered by the new constitution and the interim administration.


Posted by: Cecilia at July 6, 2005 03:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

LH, in discussing Iraq one can pull facts from all over. Here are a few that may or may not have occurred to you: Iraq is not Malaysia. It is not 18th century America either. Every cent of the cost of our commitment to Iraq right now is being paid for with money borrowed by the Treasury, most of it from foreigners and much of it from Asian central banks. The American military may at some point be needed elsewhere, and will be less able to do what we need it to the longer it is committed to Iraq. The country in which we are now trying to build an enduring liberal democracy has a liberal democratic tradition that might be fairly summarized on a Post-It note.

None of these facts are the most compelling reason for impatience with the dogged insistence that the Bush administration is pursuing the only course possible, supported by references to other situations in other countries decades or even centuries ago. Neither is the unchanging nature of that insistence even when the administration's policy changes before our eyes. No, the most compelling reason is that America has more important interests in East Asia than it does in Iraq. And in Latin America. And in Europe, and the Indian Subcontinent. The longer the Iraq commitment lasts, the more resources it consumes, the greater the strain it places on the American public's enthusiasm for an active and energetic American foreign policy, the greater the risk that our more important interests will suffer.

At some point that risk will not be worth running anymore. Now, I am aware that this argument implies a basic disconnect with the "keep-on-keeping-on," "as-long-as-it-takes" argument, in that it implies indifference to whether President Bush has a claim to be well-regarded for his Iraq policy or not. It is true that I don't care very much about Bush's political standing; I rather think it is his job to maintain his approval ratings, not mine. My paramount concern are the national interests of the United States, and my doubts about Iraq stem not only from the very good chance that we could do everything right in that country and still not attain our stated objectives, but from the fact that our resources are not infinite. We may one day soon have reason to regret committing to unrealistic objectives in Iraq and giving attainment of those objectives priority over every other foreign policy interest we have.

Posted by: JEB at July 6, 2005 04:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB - I did not vote for Pres. Bush, and I have no stake in his being well regarded.

AS for money being borrowed, thats a choice this admin has made. Given the size of the tax cuts, wed be in deficity absent the Iraq war. If we're that concerned about the deficit, we can raise taxes.

As for using the army elsewhere, Im not sure where we could that would be as valuable as Iraq. I dont think a huge ground commitement in Korea or Taiwan makes sense. I dont think we should be invading Iran, Pakistan, or Syria. I dont think we should be sending army units to Colombia, or, heaven help us, Bolivia.

Iraq is not Malaysia, or 18th century America. Which is why several different examples are offered, to show the great variability in how long it can take to tame an insurgency. The point being it could take many years. Thats the nature of insurgencies.

If the concern is with the opportunity costs, the question is not when is the insurgency completely defeated, but when can the US begin to safely withdraw resources. ANd that is probably well before the last suicide bomb goes off in Iraq.

For all the talk of army and USMC overstretch, the USAF seems to have less of an overstretch issue than it did in the 90s, which was partly due to the maintenance of the nofly zones. We also have few naval resources in the region now, beyond what weve maintained for years. The army is finally being expanded. As for nebulous "will" that is more likely to be conserved by victory, than by an early retreat.

Posted by: liberalhawk at July 6, 2005 04:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I am unimpressed by casual dismissals of VP Cheney’s “last throes” comment about the Iraqi “insurgency” as being somehow faintly ridiculous.

It’s nothing of the sort.

Cheney was speaking of the political “offering” of the insurgency, and he’s right.

Consider Clausewitz’s famous statement: “War is politics by other means”.

What political outcome can the insurgency offer to the Iraqi people to get them to side with the insurgency instead of the coalition?

A return to a Saddamite dictatorship? Puhleez!!

A religious dictatorship with Osama as Caliph? In “secular” Iraq? And with Iran and Afghanistan as recent examples of what a dead end that is? Not likely.

A defense of “Arab Honor” through repulsing the infidel American invaders? The infidels are handing out candy to the kids and spending billions to rebuild Iraq’s economic and political infrastructure; and Iraqis know this because they have a free press for the first time in their history.

Maybe the slim hope of a return to power for the Sunni Baathist minority? (i.e. a minority of a minority?) Yes, they were offering that, and some Sunni leaders believed it possible – until recently. But since the election and formation of a government, that slim hope has become a forlorn hope and the Sunnis know it; so they are now abandoning the insurgency for their share of democratic power.

Politically, this insurgency now has nothing left to offer except violent nihilism (which is another word for “nothing”). Which means it’s in its last throes.

Cheney is right.

Posted by: Tom Paine at July 6, 2005 05:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's a good thing Vice President Cheney didn't say the Iraqi insurgents were ballerinas from Mars. The logical contortions his admirers would undertake to demonstrate that he was right might cause some of them physical injury.

So what should Cheney have said? Ideally, nothing. He has no operational responsibility for anything being done in Iraq; he cannot help, and because of his position in this administration can hurt by generating confusion as to whether the President's team views the Iraq situation realistically. If he cannot remain silent he should make statements using language identical to those of the President and his Secretary of Defense, in other words the same kind of statements Dan Quayle made during the months between the invasion of Kuwait and the end of the Gulf War.

It's simple message discipline, the kind of thing this administration is supposed to excel at in the areas it cares deeply about, like election campaigns. Evidently the rules of message discipline don't apply to the big shots, the people President Bush feels most dependent on -- a pathetic commentary on a President now into his second term.

Posted by: JEB at July 6, 2005 07:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB writes: "He has no operational responsibility for anything being done in Iraq;"

Well, he's not supposed to.

It's clear he had a big role in pushing for war, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he approved of the fantasy scenarios and the decision to fight the war on the cheap.

I wouldn't be surprised if Bush defers to Cheney on defense matters, what with Cheney being a former Secretary of Defense, and during Gulf War 1, at that.

Posted by: Jon H at July 7, 2005 01:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"On July 4, 1776, more than five years of the Revolutionary War still lay ahead."

At the end of which, the foreign occupier lost the war, was expelled, and failed to achieve its war aims.

This is supposed to be inspiring?

Posted by: Jon H at July 7, 2005 01:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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