May 25, 2004

The President's Speech

I meant to post a review, but the Wall Street Journal Political Diary wrote mine -- and better:

George Bush's speech last night was businesslike and unpanicked. He didn't produce a magic carpet to get us out of Iraq, but he did convincingly show that he has a destination. He also left listeners reasonably comfortable that we have the troops, money and brains to get there by the kind of ad hockery that, in the real world, is the only way to go. Mr. Bush was especially strong on how Iraq fits into U.S. goals for the future of the world. But, let's face it, most Americans have now placed Sept. 11 into a normalized perspective. They don't see the struggle as the equivalent of World War Two or the Cold War, a continuing crisis that justifies putting normal concerns and aspirations on hold. In fact, Mr. Bush said it best a long time ago: This particular battle will be going on in the background for decades, while public attention most of the time will be elsewhere.

Until Abu Ghraib, Iraq itself was becoming a backburner issue in the campaign; the economy and health care were leaping to the fore. Let's hope it happens again. To succeed in Iraq, the U.S. needs the freedom to improvise and exploit the sort of flexibility that, at best, tends to leave the public confused and uncertain. Mr. Bush, as far as his electoral ambitions are concerned, might be better off devoting himself to taking ownership of the economic recovery rather than making weekly appearances in defense of his Iraq policy. In fact, our bet: The next big splurge of national security interest will come not from Iraq anyway, but when al Qaeda mounts its next attack in Europe or the U.S.

--Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

I liked the scars from the bike accident -- as they said in "Slapshot," it makes him look mean!

Posted by jk at May 25, 2004 12:41 PM

Looking at the president's 5 point plan I have to say it looks a lot more like a list of actionable items.

Posted by: silence dogood at May 25, 2004 06:03 PM


My nomination for best passage of the speech is the following:

"I sent American troops to Iraq to defend our security, not to stay as an occupying power. I sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, not to make them American. Iraqis will write their own history, and find their own way. As they do, Iraqis can be certain, a free Iraq will always have a friend in the United States of America."

Posted by: johngalt at May 25, 2004 08:28 PM

Just a little Condi Rice humor.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at May 26, 2004 08:15 AM

[This comment posted on G_D's behalf by JohnGalt, from a personal email received from him. It has to be shared and maybe this will inspire him to put his comments here himself! (Oh, and yes, I will take issue with some of it. ;) )]

I must say that this quote sounds great (of course I've been hearing basically the same words from Bush for the past 12 months). I've never questioned Bush's intentions - I think that they are very good. I've only questioned whether he can make these intentions reality...

Just as I've never regarded Sadaam as "evil", I've only questioned whether we can actually make democracy work in Iraq. I honestly believe that for democracy to be successful, people have to value their freedom 1st and foremost above all else. I'm not convinced that the Iraqi people desire freedom more than religion... We are even seeing what happens in this country when people place religion over democracy (see the Catholic church's latest controversy)... The leaders of the Catholic church are allowing the church's beliefs to cloud the rationality of its followers - and there are many that agree and are going along with it - and this is in America where we have over 225 years of proven history to support democracy!! How can an inherently irrational group of people put their religious beliefs aside in Iraq? Perhaps I am not giving the Iraqi's enough credit (I hope I'm wrong) - but methinks that it is also possible that this administration failed to understand the dynamics of the situation and that it is possible that they may have no viable plan to ensure that a democracy is successful in Iraq...

IMO, Bush can make all these nice, warm, fuzzy statements, but I've gotten so tired of hearing the same phrases over and over that I want to see some proof and I want to hear a viable plan. We have far too much at stake right now...

Posted by: G_D at May 26, 2004 10:34 AM

I think what's possibly new here is "I sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, not to make them American." By extension, and consistent with the rest of the speech, he didn't send troops to make Iraq democratic. We will suggest, we will advise, we will even plead, but in the final measure it's THEIR decision and their problem to make it happen.

You can't draw an equivalence between freedom and democracy. Neither guarantees the other. There's this little thing called "the tyranny of the majority." The importance of the speech is primarily to distance America, and the administration, from the idea that, to "ensure ... a democracy is successful in Iraq" is in any way a measure of winning the war there. In other words, we're putting our eye back on the ball; nation-building in Iraq can't be permitted to become a distraction from eradicating the (estimated) 18,000 al Qaida associated terrorists worldwide.

Posted by: johngalt at May 26, 2004 11:08 AM

A crystal clear example of the biggest reason why I don't post on message boards - the lack of time during a week day to re-read, make edits, word properly, etc.

Let me clarify my first sentence: I have ALWAYS regarded Saddam as "evil" and I have NEVER disagreed with our administration about that.

Posted by: G_D at May 26, 2004 01:05 PM

I expect that G_D is probably correct that religion is currently more important to those in Iraq than freedom. I'm certain that many of them are additionally highly irrational about it. The job of teaching them the value of freedom is an enormous one that we have undertaken. However, if you take the circumstances to their logical conclusion, the fact is that we MUST succeed in teaching them this value or we must kill them or we must die ourselves. In the long run there are no other options. This may sound melodramatic or extreme but how many people in this country or any other have considered the long term (generations) consequences of various policies?

The idea that if we leave them alone and get out of their country they will leave us alone is short-sighted and proven false. 9/11 is evidence of this. 9/11 is not sufficient in and of itself to make the case. We must examine the values of the general populations that allow such radicals to attack others. Suppose as G_D stated (and I agree) religion is their highest value. If they value religion above freedom for themselves then they can only see it as appropriate to value religion above freedom for others! This is the key. If they value freedom then they can allow others to exist as they choose. If they don't value freedom then they see it as acceptable and right and just to impose their religion on others. If it is OK to impose religion on one's next door neighbor as a theocratic government does then it is equally OK to impose it on the country next door if you can. If they do not value life (another concomitant of religion as a supreme value) then to spend the lives of one's own people or one's neighbor's people in endless warfare to impose one's religion is appropriate and even admirable behavior.

The technology for killing others continues to improve. More and more people can be killed at greater and greater distances. Perhaps we can slow them down in these developments but human ingenuity is endless and they cannot be stopped. If they cannot be taught to value OUR freedom then we will have to kill them or die trying. I believe the best way to get them to value our freedom is to convince them to value their own. This especially includes the freedom of religion as our founding fathers knew well. However, the rational conclusion must be that freedom is the HIGHER value. This does not involve, "turning them into Americans," but only showing them a value required for all human beings to survive. For the sake of the entire world I hope it is possible to teach this to the Iraqis and those like them worldwide.

Posted by: dagny at May 27, 2004 11:35 PM

Wow Dagny, this should get published. Seriously, a great piece examining the greater topic at hand. I think both liberals and conservatives shy away from the root truth that there is an issue of competing religions here, and not just Christianity and Islam but as you so well put, freedom and religion. Freedom needs to be the higher value because if freedom wins religion can still exist, but not the other way around.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at May 28, 2004 09:32 AM


Posted by: johngalt at June 1, 2004 08:53 AM
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