Thursday, June 30, 2005

What He Really Meant

An editorial in the Miami Herald — not widely known as a left-wing rag — gets to the heart of what President meant in Tuesday night’s speech.

To win the war on terror, Mr. Bush said we will take the fight to the enemy, and right now, the enemy is in Iraq. Nevertheless, he said that the United States would quit the fight there — not when the war on terrorism is won — but when a reconstituted Iraqi government says it is strong enough to defend itself. Given that the president was wrong in his rationale for going to war in the first place, to recast the fight as the definitive battle against terrorism while admitting that Iraq will call the shots on how long we fight seems . . . well, odd.

By such contradictions did the president reveal the true purpose of his speech: to build up enough support for continuing the current level of war to allow the United States eventually to exit gracefully. All other options are politically unpalatable.

While many people have been calling Iraq Bush’s version of Vietnam, another politically unpalatable conflict comes to mind: Somalia. The president saw what his father’s administration got us into and left undone for the Clinton administration to clean up with disasterous results. As noted below, there is definitely a political angle to the administration’s strategy in how it fights this war, and that’s true of any administration, be it Republican or Democratic. It seems to me that what the president is now looking for is the quickest way out with the fewest casualties — to his reputation, that is. It’s no secret that Somalia destroyed Clinton’s credibility with the military and labeled him in the world as weak and unwilling to put American lives in harms way. Bush is bound and determined not to let that happen to him, not just in the name of fighting terrorism, but in shoring up his base with the already-conservative military. (Of course, making sure that Congress didn’t cut veterans benefits by a few billion dollars would be a nice gesture, too.)

The things we do for love…