Thursday, January 27, 2005

An Excellent Anonymous Comment

Yesterday's post about the levity during Bush's press conference drew this response...

Dan,

The President's attitude is indicative of this whole war - most of us have no connection to it (we don't have any soldiers in our family or circle of friends). Pres. Bush may mourn the lives lost today, but he has no personal attachment to these soldiers.


....

I think that's such a poignant statement, especially because it points out that "most of us" are in the same boat as Bush, forgetful of the seriousness of the warbecause we don't have any close ties to the people losing their lives. And the blame goes both ways. Bush is able to get away with treating this war lightly because American citizens don't hold his feet to the fire and tell him to stop kidding around. Conversely, Americans take this war less seriously than they should because the whole Bush administration approach is to act like everything is going perfectly.

But let's face it, this whole war was a giant mistake. The reasons that led us to start it turned out to be false. And now that we're there we're having a pretty rough time. That's not to say we aren't making progress, but more Americans are dying than anyone expected, so it's fair to say things are rough.

To which Bush says: "The world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein in power." But that isn't the question! There are hundreds of leaders in the world that put the security of the US at risk, from Prime Ministers to Warlords to Priests. The real question is: Was taking out this particlar leader a task worthy of 1400+ lives? And the answer to that is no. You have to think, what would the American people have said if that's how this whole thing was presented to them at the beginning. "Are you willing to have 1400 soldiers die in order to take out Saddam Hussein?"

And that is why Bush has decided to change the central goal of his administration from a practical one to an idealistic one, from American security to freedom.

Before Bush's inauguration speech, those soldiers had died because of a questionable policy decision. But according to the new agenda they died for "freedom," which is a lot easier for Americans to swallow.

But Bush knows he can't put the "freedom" of citizens around the world ahead of American security, so he says that American security depends on freedom around the world. Which is hogwash.

American security depends on preventing nuclear weapons from getting into the wrong hands, and that means that America will have to win the cooperation of some shady leaders and tyrannical regimes (like Iran and North Korea), not overthrow them. But talking about negotiating with tyrannical regimes doesn't make you feel all warm and fuzzy the way talking about freedom and liberty does.

Just to play devils advocate, it is possible that our invasion of Iraq has given us more leverage in negotiating with Iran and North Korea. I don't know enough about foreign relations to comment on that, but I'll allow that it's possible.

Still, these conclusions remain firm:

1) Even if the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein in power, that does not mean that Bush made the "right decision." It just means things may work out despite his mistake. If I'm a quarterback and I throw an interception, and then the guy who intercepted the pass fumbles, and then my team recovers and runs for a touchdown, that doesn't mean I might the "right decision" when I passed the ball.

2) The idea of freeing the world from tyranny is ridiculous. Bush's job is to keep Americans safe; sometimes that may mean overthrowing a tyrant, sometimes that may mean negotiating with one.

3) Bush needs to wipe that smirk off his face. Save the antics for Air Force One and the golf course.

4 comments:

Sam Well said...

The overweening strategy that led to our invasion of Iraq is a mixture of national security and a type of idealism - it has been since the start, since before 9-11 (though that opened the door to its implementation). It is the global strategy of the group called the neo-cons whose plans Bush has almost unilaterally adopted. The strategy is based on the theory that reactionary militant Islam is the next great threat to global security and Western democracy, as communism and fascism were before it. Selectively modeling their actions after Churchill, the neo-cons argue that aggressive preemptive war, the forcible removal of Middle East dictators, and the equally forcible transplantation of democracy is the only way to stop a trend that will lead to a horrible, huge-scale, nuclear war. The current actions have already been famously called, by Norman Podhoretz, World War IV. (He considers the Cold War World War III.) It's important to understand that there is a cogent theory behind the seemingly bumbling actions of the President. Calling the war a war of freedom is a rhetorical trick, as was, to an extent that I don't know, the stretching of the truth regarding the assumption of nuclear weapons in Iraq - but it's all part of a long term plan. The fact is that unless 1) things go so horribly awry that Americans turn on the President or 2) someone comes up with a different broad-based plan of action that for some reason is adopted, the current plan will continue and, after the inevitable next terrorist attack, we'll begin another war, presumably with Iran.

Dan Bana said...

First off, props on your use of the word "overweening." I wasn't familiar with it but it's going right into my GRE word bank / hot shot vocab repertoire. Keep the spicy verbage coming.

Second, I agree with you and I disagree with you. I totally agree that the whole talk about freeing the world from tyranny is just a "rhetorical trick," a facade (I was going to say 'patina,' which is a better word, but doesn't fit as well) for a less idealistic, more Machiavellian long-term plan the neo-cons have come up with. That being the case, it's not even worth getting too worked up over the impracticality of the idea.

On the other hand, I don't think that the neo-con worldview behind the Iraq war is 'cogent' at all. The idea that preemptive strikes against tyrannical regimes will more effectively wipe out the possibility of further terrorist attacks then say, diplomatic efforts and economic incentives, seems counterintuitive to me. I think that access to money and creature comforts will do more to eliminate fundamentalism (in every religion) than bombs and missiles ever will.

Anyway, I have a feeling by 'cogent' you weren't really saying that you found the neo-con arguments convincing, so much as you were saying that compared to all this nonsense about freeing the world from tyranny, the actual strategy driving Bush's foreign policy is relatively coherent. So if that's the case, I agree with you and I agree with you.

Writing in this intellectual/analytical tone of voice makes my head hurt.

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