Rhetoric only goes so far in trumping reality–especially when it comes to a messy war. George W. Bush has been on a roll the past two weeks, delivering one speech after another on Iraq, repeating incessantly he has a “plan” for “victory” and quasi-acknowledging that progress in Iraq (until now) has been a tad bit on the slow side. His poll numbers have improved slightly in this time period, causing some pundits to suggest that Bush’s sales pitch has been working–even though the fall of gas prices might be more the cause for the slight reverse in Bush’s freefall. Still, when you’re in a groove, why not try to keep it going? So on Sunday night, Bush took the best lines of his recent speeches and put them into a brief primetime presidential address carried by all the networks. Which meant that once again Bush–despite the fact he was trying to put a new perspective on the war and his management of it–resorted to the old spin.
There’s no need to obsess over every statement. Bush’s PR–even if it’s improved–is not going to have any impact on what happens in Iraq. His words cannot determine whether or not the new government there is run by theocratic, pro-Iranian Shiites looking to develop a Shiite super-state in the south. They cannot stop the rising sectarian violence under way in Iraq. Marginally better speeches might win Bush points at home. They will not matter in Iraq. Still, let’s look at some of the notable comments in this address.
* “This election will not mean the end of violence. But it is the beginning of something new: constitutional democracy at the heart of the Middle East. And this vote –6,000 miles away, in a vital region of the world–means that America has an ally of growing strength in the fight against terror.” It might mean that. The election might also lead to a breakdown in Shiite-Sunni relations that ignites a civil war (or, as some would argue, fuels an already existing civil war). Hope, as I’ve previously written is no substitute for analysis.
* The war “has caused sorrow for our whole Nation–and it has led some to ask if we are creating more problems than we are solving. That is an important question, and the answer depends on your view of the war on terror. If you think the terrorists would become peaceful if only America would stop provoking them, then it might make sense to leave them alone.” C’mon, who believes that al Qaeda would become peaceful if the United States did nothing? This is an utterly false argument. The issue is whether the war in Iraq (a) was a diversion from the fight against al Qaeda and other Islamic jihadists and (b) produced conditions favorable for the jihadists–such as recruiting and training opportunities and a decline in America’s standing abroad. No sentient person has ever said if you leave the “terrorists” alone they will leave us alone. This is brazenly disingenuous spin.