Wednesday, November 5, 2003

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Returning the favor

Kevin Drum saves a post by linking to me, so let me return the favor -- he's dead-on in this post:

Although bloggers and the political media have been talking for a while about the allegedly real reasons we're in Iraq — drain the swamp, war of civilizations, reduce pressure on Israel's flank, the domino theory of bringing democracy to the Middle East, etc. etc. — it's true that George Bush has not once put his name to any of this stuff, has he?....

Why doesn't Bush tell us why it's important to stay in Iraq? I mean really tell us. Not just in negative terms ("we won't be scared away") but in positive terms of what his goal is. What does he really, truly want to accomplish?

And why are his conservative supporters letting him get away with staying silent? Surely they must know that America's willingness to expend hundreds of lives and billions of dollars depends on believing that our goal is worth it. The longer that Bush avoids talking about it, the more likely it is that public support will decline and the cherished goals of the national greatness conservatives will go up in smoke.


posted by Dan on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM


Indeed, my ass. Go read the text of Bush's speech for support of the $87B package for Iraq on September 8th. You will find plenty of positive reasons for staying in Iraq, both for the sake of Iraqis and for the sake of Americans. And all coming from Bush's mouth.

Maybe he should say it more often. But please dont' spread the bullshit that he hasn't given any positive reasons for staying in Iraq.

posted by: Norman Pfyster on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

I too thought it was a good post, though I disagree witht eh conclusions that no one would support Bush if he were truthful about his reasons for going to war.

As far as the many wingnuts who regularly visit Kevin's site, blinded by pathological hatred for Bush above all else, you can follow the thread below his comments if you enter the Twilight Zone.

posted by: Daniel Calto on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Norman Pfyster is right. Bush has given positive reasons for building a free and democratic Iraq, both before and after the war. Besides the September address on the 87 billion, here are three other examples pulled from major speeches. They're what I could find in 10 minutes. There are undoubtedly any number of others:

September 2002, at the UN:
If we meet our responsibilities, if we overcome this danger, we can arrive at a very different future. The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine, inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government, and respect for women, and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond.

May 2003, on USS Abraham Lincoln
We are committed to freedom in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in a peaceful Palestine. The advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world. Where freedom takes hold, hatred gives way to hope. When freedom takes hold, men and women turn to the peaceful pursuit of a better life. American values and American interests lead in the same direction: We stand for human liberty.

September 2003, at the UN:
First, we must stand with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq as they build free and stable countries. The terrorists and their allies fear and fight this progress above all, because free people embrace hope over resentment, and choose peace over violence.

The success of a free Iraq will be watched and noted throughout the region. Millions will see that freedom, equality, and material progress are possible at the heart of the Middle East. Leaders in the region will face the clearest evidence that free institutions and open societies are the only path to long-term national success and dignity. And a transformed Middle East would benefit the entire world, by undermining the ideologies that export violence to other lands.

posted by: rd on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]


You can hardly imagine my surprise when I read this kind of nonsense ("Bush never tells us why we're in Iraq").

I mean, I'm just speachless.

What do you need? Bozo the clown with balloons?

posted by: Paul A'Barge on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Y'see, we want details. "[A] very different future", "human liberty" and "free and stable countries" are all quite nice ideas.. but they (as are the rest of the words in the selected quotes above, and every other quote I can recall) are very very vague.

Sports talk: Imagine the Cubs saying "We're going to win the World Series!" That's nice, but how the hell do you plan on doing it?? Are you going to fire and replace a manager? Are you going to institute a more rigorous workout regimen? Etc, etc. Details are what we need.. not Al Gore-style micromanaging, but a little more specific than the present mumbo-jumbo.

posted by: spoon on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Look, the proof is in the pudding. Obviously Bush has articulated some reasons for going there and staying there. But if a substantial number of people (and I believe there are a substantial number) do feel like it's aimless and we haven't been given a driving and uniting goal, don't you think that's a real problem?

Now, given that fact, you can either go the misanthropic route and say it's the fault of those stupid Americans (and the evil Democrats who lead them) for not understanding the words comeing out of Bush's mouth (which would require calling a lot of very smart people stupid), or you can acknowledge that it's Bush's problem as a leader. Clearly, saying that we're going to clean up the Middle East is not a compelling enough vision, or has not been articulated as a compelling enough vision, to unite the American people. And yet clearly there have been moments in our past where we've united for a common cause. I suggest Bush figure out how.

Personally, I think one big issue is that the Administration presses the idea that it's a Really Big Deal when convenient, and presses the idea that it's No Big Deal when convenient. Say, for example, when we talk about the costs and the commitments and length of stay and sacrifices the American people have to make. You don't dole out taxcut candy with one hand and solemnly declare a period of sacrifice with the other and expect to sound like a compelling leader.

posted by: sidereal on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

I agree that President Bush is not doing this part of his job adequately. His father had the same failing. Bush II is not mute and neither was Bush I, but the bully pulpit is not in their repetoire.

It's the difference between high church and low church.

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think a lot of this relates to Bush's ineptitude as a public speaker. As Norman Pfyster notes above, he does say a lot of these things, we just don't hear him. The reason is he has not mastered (probably never will) public speaking. That's weird to say of a President, but true. (Of course, Carter wasn't much a speaker either. Even Clinton, at the beginning, wasn't much, but he became quite good. Can't remember Ford having those skills either.)

posted by: Roger L. Simon on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]


I really think Kevin's comment is nuts. Bush has explained the significance of Iraq over and over and over again in significant set-piece speeches that got plenty of press. His style is not to be in your face with things every day. Witness his June 2002 speech on the Israeli/Palestinian issue. That speech contains all you need to know about the administration's approach to that question. When Bush is asked abot the issue now, he often refers the questioner back to that speech. Same goes for Iraq (but there have been many more, and recent, major speeches on the subject). Maybe that style has drawbacks, but it is emphatically not the case that Bush has failed to explain the reasons for the war, and why it is important.

posted by: rds on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

The problem is that Bush has failed to articulate a reason for being in Iraq (although he _has_ failed to _be_ articulate, to be sure).

The problem is that he can't decide on which one sticks.

Is it WMD?

Is it a threat (imminent or future) to US security?

Is it to open schools?

Is it to plant the seeds of democracy?

Is it to stablize the Middle East?

Is it to hunt down terrorists?

Is it to wage war on al Qaeda?

Is it to give fat contracts to Halliburton? (Sorry, couldn't help myself.)

Bush and his puppeteers continue to move from one rationale to the next, looking for one that fits. It's perfectly rational behavior fitting the pattern of a man who has gotten himself -- not to mention his country -- into a bit of a pickle and needs a way out.

Like a good sitcom, hilarity ensues. Oh, except for the men and women serving and dying over there.

posted by: Andre on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

I can't speak for Dan, but I agree that Bush has now and again talked about democracy in the Middle East as a good thing. But before the war he didn't feel like he had to devote a whole speech to this subject because WMD was a good enough reason at the time, and since the war ended he hasn't done it for reasons that escape me.

I think it's important to remember the difference between blog readers and most Americans. Any of us can Google Bush's speeches and find snatches here and there that show Bush has said something or another. But that's not enough.

And it's not a matter of being a poor public speaker. Most Americans actually seem to like his speaking style just fine. It's a matter of devoting an entire, serious, well publicized speech to his broader goals and then repeating it over and over. Like it or not, that's what it takes. And it has to be about more than democracy in one single country.

So why hasn't he? Because he doesn't really have a broader vision? Because he doesn't realize that lots of people haven't heard what he's said before? Something else?

Beats me. But if you want the public to support this effort, quit making excuses for Bush and instead encourage him to do what a leader needs to do: lead.

posted by: Kevin Drum on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]


The problem is _not_ that Bush has failed to articulate...

posted by: Andre on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Bush's reasons kept on changing until he saw people starting to nod. All these everchanging reasons can't all be right. So, excuse us skeptics for thinking that the true reasons may be hidden. The lack of info coming from this administration has been appalling on all levels, and is not just miscommunication but virtually withholding of many important documents that are the legislative branch's right to see. Even the 9/11 comission is threatening to subpeona the documents it needs.

Add it all, folks and remove your nose pinchers.

Clearly it smells...

posted by: ch2 on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

C'mon Kevin. Your initial comment was that Bush has "never" given positive reasons for staying in Iraq. Now you are asking for a major, serious speech, repeated numerous times.

The link I gave in the first comment was a major, serious speech, widely reported in the media because it was his major statement about why Congress should pass the $87B grant package. It's not snippets found by googling. Just because you didn't pay attention doesn't mean Bush didn't say it.

Be honest with yourself: you don't like the policy. You disagree with the linkage between terrorism and Iraq. You disagree that our security interest is best served by staying in Iraq. You think this whole neo-con strategy is dangerous. Whatever, that's fine. Reasonable people can disagree on these topics and can have fruitful discussions about them. But you sound silly and petty talking about a lack of reasons when that isn't really your concern.

In a similar vein, you say you want leadership from Bush. He's shown it in spades. What you want is for him to lead us in a different direction. As you said last week on your site, Bush scares you; not because he's aimless, but because the aim is radical.

posted by: Norman Pfyster on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Here's a relevant article about a speech Bush will make tomorrow:

Bush to [make] Speech on Middle East Democracy

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - President Bush (news - web sites) on Thursday will declare to skeptics of U.S. intentions in the Middle East that the political and economic freedoms America wants to see in the region are not "synonymous with Westernization."

Bush will applaud democracy's gains across the globe, including the Middle East, his national security adviser said Wednesday, previewing the president's speech.

"It's a comprehensive speech about democracy's march over the last several years and about the work that remains yet to be done, and focuses principally on the work that remains to be done in the Middle East," Condoleezza Rice said.

"At time when people are struggling to be able to achieve this and to make progress in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, I think he thinks it's important to put this in a large, regional context," she said.

Bush also was expected to say that past American attempts to maintain stability in the Middle East by supporting governments that did not embrace political freedoms have backfired.

"What we found is that we did not buy security and stability, but rather frustration and pent-up emotions in a region that has fallen behind in terms of prosperity, and in fact, continues to produce ideologies of hatred," Rice said.

The president, she said, planned to discuss "challenges that democracy still faces in places like Burma and North Korea (news - web sites) and places like even China where economic liberty gives an opportunity for the march of political liberty, but where there needs to be a commitment to making that link."

The situation in Afghanistan and postwar Iraq were also topics to be mentioned.

As for the Middle East, Bush was making the effort to praise developments in Bahrain, Jordan and Saudi Arabia "where you're beginning to get some stirrings of the need for a political voice for the people," Rice said.

Saudi Arabia decided last month to hold its first elections, a step that comes at a time when the Saudi royal family is under pressure to bring democratic reform. Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, has an unelected national advisory body known as the Shura Council, and no parliament.

Bush intended to stress "that modernization in the sense of political and economic freedoms isn't synonymous with Westernization — that freedom will have to find its own voice with the traditions of the region," Rice said.

"If you look at democratic development in the world, it makes its peace with local traditions and local and religious and ideological views. It's not a one-size-fits all approach."

Those comments could be seen as Bush's rebuttal to anti-Western sentiment in Iraq. Rice, however, said the intent was to associate the United States with people who seek freedom and to say that the president believes they can attain it.

"There's no culture or religion that is somehow of incapable of enjoying the benefits of freedom," she said, adding that the United States is only trying to help those who want to live in a democracy.

"This is not the United States is doing something to this region," she said. "This is a region in which the stirrings (of democracy) are really quite clear."

The speech marks the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, a private organization in Washington set up to strengthen democracy around the world.

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

"It's a matter of devoting an entire, serious, well publicized speech to his broader goals and then repeating it over and over."

I'm sorry, but, as Norman Pfyster and rd point out above, he has said what the goals are, in various speeches at various times and in various settings. Why this need to have it summed up in one speech? And then repeated over and over? I guess if you are a four-year-old that's the only way things will get through to you, but for the rest of us, it is not necessary -- we get it already.

Maybe the problem, Kevin, isn't what the President has or hasn't said or where or how he said it; rather, maybe the problem is that you wrapped up in a left-wing cocoon and just aren't paying attention to him.

posted by: Al on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

"Just because you didn't pay attention doesn't mean Bush didn't say it." -- Norman Pfyster

Crap. You beat me by one minute!

posted by: Al on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

I of course second Norman and Al's remarks: Bush has relentlessly emphasized the positive goal of democratizing Iraq. That said, I can certainly concede to Kevin Drum and others that there's room for improvement. What's missing is not clear statements and restatements of the goal: we've had that. What we haven't had from Bush personally is a more filled out roadmap of how we plan to get there. For instance, there's been no statement from Bush on why we think early elections in mid-2004, before a new constitution, would ultimately be harmful for Iraqi democracy. As a result, the wrangle over the new UN resolution was well nigh incomprehensible to anyone not scouring news sites for hours a day.

posted by: rd on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

“"Just because you didn't pay attention doesn't mean Bush didn't say it." -- Norman Pfyster

Crap. You beat me by one minute!”

Darn it, you beat me by two minutes! President Bush has repeatedly cited the reasons to rebuild Iraq and continue the fight on terrorism. Is it his fault that the liberal media virtually ignore his comments? I well remember the President’s speech on the aircraft carrier when he rightfully stated that the major conflict was over. Regretfully, only Fox News and perhaps a few other news organizations emphasized his warning that much turmoil lay ahead. The liberal media practice “gotcha” journalism. They are dedicated to destroying this administration. George W. Bush will never receive the benefit of the doubt from these scoundrels.

PS: I'm sure some people will dispute my claim that the major conflict is over in Iraq. Sigh, all I can to them is this: please study up on your history! It is absolutely amazing what we have accomplished so far---with so little loss of life.

posted by: David Thomson on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

The issue isn't why we're there. The issue is that the administration got it's go-ahead on a false warrant, i.e. imminent danger, WMDs, etc. BushCo spoke with CERTAINTY before hand - I saw him, he was unwavering. He convinced the country, got the approvals, and then romped on Iraq. They set aside the cost issue by saying the money would come from Iraq oil revenue. Where is it? Where are those scores of scientists who were going to immediately tell the story about the WMDs? Remember when it was said that all we needed to do was interview the scientists outside of Iraq? RD - you who seem to have every Bush utterance in your hip pocket -- play a few from before the invasion of Iraq where he says with the same fervor that there might not be WMDs; that Iraq might not be a threat. And preferably not some below radar speech that didn't hit a wide audience. How about a quote from the State of the Union Address, or one to the UN?

It doesn't matter how noble you can make the cause now, the entire action appears to be based on false warrants. That is the first betrayal in a string of many that would follow, and it shows contempt for anyone and everyone.

posted by: midwesterner on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Kevin Drum above says: "I can't speak for Dan, but I agree that Bush has now and again talked about democracy in the Middle East as a good thing. But before the war he didn't feel like he had to devote a whole speech to this subject because WMD was a good enough reason at the time . . . ."

The old but apt refrain that the left has no use for the facts certainly applies here. Geez . . . when even the intelligent left says stuff like this, one can only guess at just how detached from reality the "Bush lied" folks are.

Here's roughly two-thirds of Bush's speech of February 26, 2003 to AEI. Yes, that's before the war. Not enough mention of democracy? See for yourself:

"The safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and growing threat. Acting against the danger will also contribute greatly to the long-term safety and stability of our world. The current Iraqi regime has shown the power of tyranny to spread discord and violence in the Middle East. A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America's interests in security, and America's belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq. (Applause.)

The first to benefit from a free Iraq would be the Iraqi people, themselves. Today they live in scarcity and fear, under a dictator who has brought them nothing but war, and misery, and torture. Their lives and their freedom matter little to Saddam Hussein -- but Iraqi lives and freedom matter greatly to us. (Applause.)

Bringing stability and unity to a free Iraq will not be easy. Yet that is no excuse to leave the Iraqi regime's torture chambers and poison labs in operation. Any future the Iraqi people choose for themselves will be better than the nightmare world that Saddam Hussein has chosen for them. (Applause.)

If we must use force, the United States and our coalition stand ready to help the citizens of a liberated Iraq. We will deliver medicine to the sick, and we are now moving into place nearly 3 million emergency rations to feed the hungry.

We'll make sure that Iraq's 55,000 food distribution sites, operating under the Oil For Food program, are stocked and open as soon as possible. The United States and Great Britain are providing tens of millions of dollars to the U.N. High Commission on Refugees, and to such groups as the World Food Program and UNICEF, to provide emergency aid to the Iraqi people.

. . .

The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected. (Applause.)

Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own: we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more. America has made and kept this kind of commitment before -- in the peace that followed a world war. After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies, we left constitutions and parliaments. We established an atmosphere of safety, in which responsible, reform-minded local leaders could build lasting institutions of freedom. In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found a permanent home.

There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. (Applause.) The nation of Iraq -- with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people -- is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom. (Applause.)

The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. They encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life. And there are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East. Arab intellectuals have called on Arab governments to address the "freedom gap" so their peoples can fully share in the progress of our times. Leaders in the region speak of a new Arab charter that champions internal reform, greater politics participation, economic openness, and free trade. And from Morocco to Bahrain and beyond, nations are taking genuine steps toward politics reform. A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region. (Applause.)

It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world -- or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim -- is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life. Human cultures can be vastly different. Yet the human heart desires the same good things, everywhere on Earth. In our desire to be safe from brutal and bullying oppression, human beings are the same. In our desire to care for our children and give them a better life, we are the same. For these fundamental reasons, freedom and democracy will always and everywhere have greater appeal than the slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror. (Applause.)

Success in Iraq could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace, and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state. (Applause.) The passing of Saddam Hussein's regime will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training, and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers. And other regimes will be given a clear warning that support for terror will not be tolerated. (Applause.)

Without this outside support for terrorism, Palestinians who are working for reform and long for democracy will be in a better position to choose new leaders. (Applause.) True leaders who strive for peace; true leaders who faithfully serve the people. A Palestinian state must be a reformed and peaceful state that abandons forever the use of terror. (Applause.)

For its part, the new government of Israel -- as the terror threat is removed and security improves -- will be expected to support the creation of a viable Palestinian state -- (applause) -- and to work as quickly as possible toward a final status agreement. As progress is made toward peace, settlement activity in the occupied territories must end. (Applause.) And the Arab states will be expected to meet their responsibilities to oppose terrorism, to support the emergence of a peaceful and democratic Palestine, and state clearly they will live in peace with Israel. (Applause.)

The United States and other nations are working on a road map for peace. We are setting out the necessary conditions for progress toward the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. It is the commitment of our government -- and my personal commitment -- to implement the road map and to reach that goal. Old patterns of conflict in the Middle East can be broken, if all concerned will let go of bitterness, hatred, and violence, and get on with the serious work of economic development, and political reform, and reconciliation. America will seize every opportunity in pursuit of peace. And the end of the present regime in Iraq would create such an opportunity. (Applause.)

. . .

Members of our Armed Forces also understand why they may be called to fight. They know that retreat before a dictator guarantees even greater sacrifices in the future. They know that America's cause is right and just: liberty for an oppressed people, and security for the American people. And I know something about these men and women who wear our uniform: they will complete every mission they are given with skill, and honor, and courage. (Applause.)

Much is asked of America in this year 2003. The work ahead is demanding. It will be difficult to help freedom take hold in a country that has known three decades of dictatorship, secret police, internal divisions, and war. It will be difficult to cultivate liberty and peace in the Middle East, after so many generations of strife. Yet, the security of our nation and the hope of millions depend on us, and Americans do not turn away from duties because they are hard. We have met great tests in other times, and we will meet the tests of our time. (Applause.)

We go forward with confidence, because we trust in the power of human freedom to change lives and nations. By the resolve and purpose of America, and of our friends and allies, we will make this an age of progress and liberty. Free people will set the course of history, and free people will keep the peace of the world.

Thank you all, very much. (Applause.)"

posted by: KK on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Goddamnitall... you people always regress into this "intellectual" one-upping and get so far off track you can't remember where you've started.

The issue here is not what has been said already.
It is deciding how best to confront the fact that we are having difficulty.

Why are we having difficulty?
One reason is that a significant portion of Americans are disgruntled. That limits the policymakers' range of motion.

Why are so many people disgruntled?
They don't understand or accept what it is that we are doing.

How can we help them better understand or accept what we are doing?
Define our points. Get more specific, more personal. Most of all, repetition.

This will not solve all our problems regarding Iraq. But it will lighten the load on our domestic front, thus enabling the policymakers to pursue their overseas goals with more freedom of movement, less stress, but most of all.. the trust of the people.

Remember: this isn't a contest for web-based-politico-geeks.. this concerns every American. Simply calling them stupid or partisan doesn't change the fact.

posted by: spoon on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

KK: The left says "Bush lied" the right says "it's a noble cause." Bush's justification for the war was based on the certainty that Iraq had WMDs and Iraq was an imminent threat. Remember Powell before the UN? The speech you posted gives us the platitudes, the old freedom rhetoric; it does NOT show Bush leveling with people by saying, "Now, Listen, there may not be any WMDs and Iraq might be no threat at all. But all these noble reasons are enough" Why can't you just admit it - Bush midled the American people and the world.

posted by: midwesterner on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Midwesterner -- Do you think Dick Gephardt was lying too in this colloquy of Monday?:

"Question: Could you explain your vote authorizing the President to take action against Iraq? . . . .

Rep. Richard A Gephardt : I supported the resolution because I gained information from the CIA and other former Clinton security officials that Iraq either had weapons or components of weapons of mass destruction."

I don't think Mr. Gephardt was lying. I do concede, however, that your reference to notions of liberty and freedom as mere "platitudes" and "old rhetoric" is telling.

posted by: KK on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

I don't really give a damn whether or not Bush levels with us about why we went into Iraq (if, in fact, he needs to at all).. I want to hear what we are going to do tomorrow and the next day. Don't tell me the sun is going to shine, I want to hear details.

posted by: spoon on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

The reason Bush is vague about the precise reason we're staying in Iraq is obvious: his real reasons hinged on his (and Cheney's, Rumsfeld's, and Wolfowitz's) naive belief that those goals could be accomplished EASILY. (Read Wolfowitz's February statement to Congress, and marvel.) Now that it's become clear that Iraq can NOT be reformed without very great difficulty and expense, and now that no trace of the expected chemical and biological WMDs has turned up (we all know by now that the White House deliberately exaggerated the evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program, as well as concealing its discovery of North Korea's restarted nuclear program from Congress for weeks until it got an Iraq war resolution), Bush doesn't know what the hell to say to justify the coming enormous expense of the long-term occupation that will be needed to achieve the reform of Iraq he had expected to accomplish easily.

I don't know how even that, however, explains the US military's total unpreparedness to carry out any kind of effective search for WMDs for weeks after we'd won the war If there ever were any biological or chemical weapons in Iraq, they are now safe in the hands of al-Qaida or its middlemen.

posted by: Bruce Moomaw on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

KK: I haven't studied Gephardt and I make no apologies for him. You can see him wince every time he tries to answer a question - as his mind calculates the politics of his answer. Doesn't seem like a genuine article to me.

Freedom: In the period of the American Revolution both the Americans and their British cousins used the same rhetoric to justify what they were doing. Remember, Britain had a Bill of Rights, a Constitution that guarantees representation, etc., The British were free people. Read John Burgoyne's proclomation to the Americans when he invaded from Canada and you will hear the same rhetoric the Americans were using. Now, I believe the Americans then were genuine in their pursuit of liberty, while the Brits were corrupt, elite, and coercive bureaucrats, but they still used the same rhetoric. I'm afraid today, America looks much like Britain did then. We'll play the liberty and freedom card anytime we need to, to justify anything we want to do. Freedom is easily confused with power. Fredom is easily confused with privilege. Freedom is easily confused with wealth. We've got an elite class of Country Clubbers who will turn anything they perceive to threaten "THEM", that is, their wealth, their privelege and their power, into a fight for freedom. If someone uses "freedom" over and over again to you, they are manipulating you.

Try reading Eisenhower's farewell speech from January of 1961. He rightly says wonderful things about freedom though he never talks of spreading it around the world. He doesn't talk about a world where the every other culture is nullified and the American way trumps all others. He does talk about a world that disarms and where people are bound together, not by freedom, but by mutual respect and love.

You see, Eisenhower, who I respect, was not an ideologue, he was a humanist. Bush is an ideologue, and his constant invoking of the term freedom is how he manipulates the minds and souls of the people. I can't respect that. By the way, I'm a lifelong Republican - until now.

posted by: midwesterner on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Look, folks, let's keep our points in a row here. Kevin's central point, repeated and "indeed-ed" by Dan was:

Although bloggers and the political media have been talking for a while about the allegedly real reasons we're in Iraq — drain the swamp, war of civilizations, reduce pressure on Israel's flank, the domino theory of bringing democracy to the Middle East, etc. etc. — it's true that George Bush has not once put his name to any of this stuff, has he?....

Whatever else one might say about Bush's argument, the list of references above show definitely and conclusively that Kevin is, well, mistaken. Poorly informed. Which is to say, WRONG.

Now, for the second-order question: if Bush has been saying these things all along, why is it that several intelligent and informed people didn't notice?

posted by: Charlie on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

"All these everchanging reasons can't all be right."

Bullshit. I can't believe that someone would seriously think that. Any real world action can have many things arguing in its favor, not of which by themselves would be sufficient for action, but all of which combined would provide sufficient motivation.

I belong to a club which screens foreign films and animation. We are considering getting a new projector. I'm pushing for it because:
1) We have one projector, and would like a backup in case problems occur with one so we don't have to abort showings.
2) A new projector would have a higher resolution and contrast than our current one.
3) A new projector would have more lumens of output, which would mean that the image wouldn't vanish when someone accidentally turned on the lights.
4) A new projector would have a VGA input, making it easier to hookup a laptop when we want to show things off of a computer.
5) A new projector would be three to four times lighter than our current projector, making it much easier to transport to showings.
6) We have money in savings to provide for a projector, and projector prices have dropped recently.
7) A new projector would have a larger screen size at our current projection distance (the only one really possible in the university room we have to use), especially with widescreen 16:9 material.

In real life, when making the proposal to buy the projector, I go over each of these reasons. Different heads nod in turn for different ones. My roommate Jeff thinks that getting a backup is sufficient reason to buy one, but no one else would be willing to buy a projector for just that reason. A friend Andrew tends to sit in the back, selling concessions, so the screen size is reason enough for him, but wouldn't convince anyone else. Another friend Eric likes to show shorts off his laptop, and the VGA input would be reason enough for him. I have to carry it to and from showings, and the weight convinces me, but the people who don't have to carry it don't care and wouldn't do it just for a lighter projector.

None of these reasons, by themselves, would be enough. There is no one true reason. All of them, existing together, combine in ways to push us over the tipping point, to make us want to buy a new projector.

According to some people here, this means that our logic is inconsistent and flawed, and that I must be lying, since I give multiple reasons to convince different people. "They can't all be true!" you claim. Of course, they are all true in our case. Even if some of the reasons I don't care about as much as other people, they're still a valid part of my case and still true when I use them to persuade others to buy a projector.

I refuse to believe that international affairs are remarkably much simpler than the business decisions of an animation club at Cornell University.

posted by: John Thacker on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

I like analogies as much as the next guy, but isn't it going a little far to excuse a President who with one exception (the concern over Iraqi WMD) has offered mainly generalities in support of his policy toward Iraq on the grounds that the subject is too complicated to explain? The public does have some right to know, not just what reasons might justify American policy in Iraq in theory, but what reasons motivate the Bush administration in practice.

I sympathize with Kevin Drum's questions, but if this President and his senior administration officials were capable of presenting their policy in the way he suggests they would have done it by now. They aren't. Bush in particular is not. He can talk about freedom and how good and important it is, and that will resonate enough with his political base to get him through the next few news cycles. But he can only do that from a text prepared by someone else; preparing himself to talk in specific terms about what freedom might mean in an Arab context and why it is worth the sacrifice of American lives would be for him a Heruclean task, the kind that he has never had to perform in his life and is not about to start performing now.

Per the exact passage of Kevin Drum's quoted here, there were good reasons why people styling themselves "national greatness conservatives" four years ago rallied around John McCain, not Bush.

posted by: Zathras on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

"there were good reasons why people styling themselves "national greatness conservatives" four years ago rallied around John McCain, not Bush."

Nevertheless, I can't think of a single "national greatness" conservatives who supported McCain 4 years ago who is anti-war now. Indeed, the most prominent of them, such as Bill Kristol, are the strongest supporters of the war. Your anti-war Republicans -- Scrowcroft and the rest -- are NOT "national greatness" conservatives.

posted by: Al on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

I will admit Bush has made his argument over and over. I just don't believe him. Not one bit of it. I have always considered myself a liberal interventionist and so I thought for moment that ostensibly liberal interventionist war would be beneficial because it would remove one of the most horrendous dictators on earth. But what bothers me is that I just don't see Bush as a liberal interventionist. Just as an imperialist posing as a liberal interventionist. The difference is the one between liberal interventionist (LI) - remember Haiti and Kosovo (which I supported) and Rwanda (which I was ashamed our government did nothing to prevent) - and neo-conservative is the value of humanitarian ideals. To LIs the humanitarian benefit is the end in itself. To neocons, humanitarianism is just a cynical emotional string to justify a policy based on power politics. It's a lot like White Man's Burden 100 years ago - the British government used to remind the people over and over the number of schools being built in India, or the new roads being paved in Africa. But that's not why the British were there. They wanted the resources and the geopolitical position vis-a-vis the other European political powers. That's how I view the Bush Administration's approach to Iraq. Humanitarianism and support for democracy just isn't a real policy goal for these guys, just a slogan. If it were real then our posture toward Saudi Arabia democratization would be much stronger, our position toward Uzbekistan would be 180 degrees different (their leader is every bit as sadistic as Saddam), and our investment in Afghanistan would be much, much greater. And this is without even venturing into the subject of Africa. Of course you have to prioritize matters but until I see Bush making serious efforts to change course in Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan then I shall remain unconvinced of the sincerity of his democratic rhetoric.

posted by: Elrod on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

How apropos. Bush will speak today about spreading democracy around the world and, in particular, in the Middle East.

Drezner gets results?

posted by: K on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

I think the reason Kevin Drum winces about "bringing democracy" to Iraq is that (1) of course, it has nothing to do with our principal pre-war explanation of WMD, which events have rendered inoperative and (2) the fact that, say, we are allied with the human rights abuser Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan against Iraq suggests that it's at most part of the story. I can't imagine that the American people will accept the casualties we are suffering for the first of what could be dozens of arbitrary "bringing democracy" adventures whose relevance to America's security are slight. (Given Iraq as an Al Qaeda recruiting tool, we're probably in more danger from more terrorists than we were before!)

David T.: I'm glad you're so amazed by what we have accomplished so far. Would you mind telling us the control group for this clinical trial? Id like to check the data myself.

posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

K: Really? Well, I'm glad somebody's reading blogs in the White House.

posted by: Daniel Calto on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

y'know, if the WTC had been destroyed by the terrorist of the Irish Republican Army, the U.S. response would have been entirely different. Ireland (and the partition of that land poorly-controlled by the U.K.) are nations which respect Law, and in which terrorism --however common -- is a crime. (The U.S. too -- we have our KKK lynchmobs and Texas Separatist militias and Branch Davidians, with whom our law enforcement agencies deal, sometimes well, sometimes poorly.)

But nations which are more awful than lawful -- the Taliban's Afghanistan, or Hussein's Iraq -- MUST be considered a different case.

Iraq can be fairly compared to a parole violator. Previously convicted of "burglary" (invading Iran and Kuwait) "wife-beating" (attacks on the Kurds) "embezzlement" (diversion of oil-for-food funds) and etc -- he had repeatedly rejected visits from his parole officer (U.N. inspectors) and threatened violence with military grade assault weapons. (WMD)

What should the sherrif have done?

Go to the courthouse and get a new warrant? (U.N.? Resolution? )

Round up a posse? (U.K. Poland, Australia...)

Call for the badguy to come out peaceably, with his hands up? (deadline ...)

SO, now the sherriff has his hands full with the Iraqi wife and kids, some of whom are not entirely happy about losing SaDADDY-dam, and some of whom are simply impatient (Gimme snacks, gimme T.V. I want a bigger allowance, I GOTTA GO BAFFROOM!)

It could be a really simple, plausible, presentable metaphor.

But would having the president offer such a metaphor actually "make the case" ?

Or would be be criticized for trivializing the human suffering?

posted by: Pouncer on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Speech coming up this hour NPR reports.

From Fox News:

Bush to Promote Democracy in Middle East

Thursday, November 06, 2003

WASHINGTON — As President Bush prepares to sign an $87.5 billion supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan on Thursday, he will also deliver a speech explaining how democracy in the Middle East is not only good for America, but for the world.

In a speech prepared for the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy (search), a private organization in Washington set up to strengthen democracy around the world, Bush is expected to say that past U.S. support for less-than-democratic governments in the Middle East created a bad precedent.

"After 60 years of trying to find stability through regimes that were not devoted to political liberty for their people, what we found is that we did not buy security and stability, but rather frustration and pent-up emotions in a region that has fallen behind in terms of prosperity and in fact continues to produce ideologies of hatred," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (search) told reporters in a roundtable interview Wednesday.

. . .

Rice said the president is expected to applaud movements toward democracy -- particularly in the Middle East -- and to point out other nations and regions that can benefit from such movements.

"It's a comprehensive speech about democracy's march over the last several years and about the work that remains yet to be done, and focuses principally on the work that remains to be done in the Middle East," Rice said.

. . .

Fox News' Major Garrett and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

posted by: K on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Al made a good point earlier when he pointed out that most Republican McCain supporters from 1999 and 2000 supported Bush on Iraq. They supported him on Afghanistan and domestic security too, for that matter.

The Bush campaign's spin during 2000 was that McCain was something less than a real Republican. Partly this was because of differences over campaign finance reform. McCain views the current system as little better than a license to bribe politicians, while Bush's electoral career would have been impossible had he not be the favored candidate of moneyed interests (into the bargain, without policy ideas from those interests Bush would have had hardly anything to say). At least as much of the McCain as Republican lite spin derived from the fact that McCain got along well with the despised media.

None of this had anything to do with foreign policy, which was not in fact a major issue during the primary campaign. If anything, McCain criticisms of Clinton's policies abroad were more frequent and detailed than Bush's. Had he been elected McCain might well have made some of the same policy choices, but it stands to reason that a man as comfortable with the press as he is would have made a better public case for his actions than someone like Bush, who is plainly terrified even of structured press conferences in the White House.

Pursuing this hypothetical a little further, it is hard to imagine a President McCain ceding as much authority not only over strictly military affairs but over foreign policy as well to his Defense Secretary and his subordinates as Bush has. Nor would McCain -- with his aerospace background, long representation of a state on the Mexican border, and record of supporting free trade and fighting against pork barrel spending -- have been likely to just let issues relating to NASA, immigration, trade and wasteful spending slide as Bush has.

I guess the point I'm making is that the 2000 Bush campaign's spin that McCain and the "national greatness" types who supported him were Republicans in name only was only that -- spin. In many ways they were and remain more traditional Republicans than Bush is. Only someone who took the spin seriously (a number of pundits, for example Tim Noah and Mickey Kaus at Slate, very foolishly did) would have expected these people to adopt the Democrats' lines of criticism of Bush's foreign policy. However, they can criticize the way Bush has made his case with perfect consistency.

posted by: Zathras on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

I think Bush has articulated fairly well the main reasons for going to war. There never was one single reason for knocking Saddam off his perch, but a whole mix: the proven desire of Saddam to get WMDs, the fact that he has already used them on Iran and his own people, evidence, by no means just circumstantial, of links and funding of terror groups; his numerous violations of UN resolutions, and just about every norm of legality and morality in the book; the increasing porosity of the sanctions, and cost of the no-fly zones, etc.

A whole bunch of reasons. We can, quite rightly, debate them. What Kevin Drum and others, I suspect, want, is a different, ie non-interventionist policy. Once again they play the man and not the ball. For goodness sake, accept the fact that Bush is no Lincoln or Reagan in the speech department, but he is perfectly capable of explaining a course of policy.

And I suspect Bush's critics know this all along.

posted by: Johnathan Pearce on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

I can't believe I've read a post like this.
What is surprising for me is - above all -that "indeed" by D. Drezner.
Really don't you undesrtand why we're in Iraq? I can't believe it. It's possible I haven't understood your tought.
Among thousand others sources just one: AEI speech last february.

posted by: e.r. on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Danny really needs to put up a new banner: Drezner get's results from GW Bush!

As of this morning, the President has come out and articulated a long term policy in the middle-east. Democracy for all. The only problem is that his military policy is incapable of supporting such a pogrom and his staff is with the exceptions of a few lights like Blackwill, Powell, Armitage, etc. almost completely incapable of carrying it out.

Democracy for all. LOL. If he really believes he can pull that off with the gang he's been relying on he and the nation are in for quite a ride. Looks like the neo-cons trump reason and sanity again.

A great ideal, but he can't follow through with who he's got running the show for him.

posted by: Oldman on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

That's how I view the Bush Administration's approach to Iraq. Humanitarianism and support for democracy just isn't a real policy goal for these guys, just a slogan. If it were real then our posture toward Saudi Arabia democratization would be much stronger, our position toward Uzbekistan would be 180 degrees different (their leader is every bit as sadistic as Saddam), and our investment in Afghanistan would be much, much greater.

Good points about other supporters of terrorism, elrod. Would you have preferred that we "attacked" these countries first, or applied some kind of diplomatic pressure of some kind? (I do no ask that sarcastically) And left Iraq in the hands of Saddam for the time being? There's certainly a case that can be made that Iraq was not the best priority.

I get the impression that you somewhat agree with the results but don't like who's doing it, therefore, it's immoral because people who don't think like you are immoral. Again, that may sound sarcastic, but I don't mean it that way.

posted by: sickles on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Democracy for all. LOL. If he really believes he can pull that off with the gang he's been relying on he and the nation are in for quite a ride. Looks like the neo-cons trump reason and sanity again.

I guess if Mr. Clinton had been in his third term then Madeklaine Albright, Bill Cohen et al would have brought to the world a "New birth of freedom."

posted by: sickles on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Every foreign policy situation requires a unique response. I wouldn't argue that we should "attack" every country that violates human rights. Just that we shouldn't go parading Uzbekistan as part of our coalition of the willing. Or Eritrea. Or Azerbaijan. Or Pakistan, for that matter. And this is especially apropos of Bush's speech today on spreading democracy in the Middle East. Again, the speech was wonderful. The ideas are great. Especially the tough talk on Egypt and the admission that Western interests - especially the US, Britain, France and Israel - are highly (though not solely) responsible for the autocratic regimes in the region. It sends the proper message that we recognize how autocratic regimes in the Middle East have served our amoral interests well - especially oil and Israel - but that the long-term consequences of this policy is to promote alienation and, eventually, terrorism. Promoting democracy in places like Egypt might result in a short term bump in Islamic fundamentalist candidates, but over the long term the modern, secular middle classes will support us. It's a great policy shift, if it's genuine.

But the proof is in the pudding. I'll never be a Bush supporter - that's mostly for domestic policy reasons. But that alone does not make me view his foreign policy as immoral. In fact I viewed much of Clinton's policy as short-sighted and erroneous. However, I will support Bush's foreign policy only when I see the bold rhetoric described today at the National Endowment for Democracy put into action.

posted by: Elrod on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Mr. Oldman,

Well, I'm pretty sure that no American President has had a 'pogrom' as a military policy, telling though your choice of words may be.

But that said, I can see no evidence of a faltering military campaign.

What eveidence do you see?

posted by: Art Wellesley on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Hey, might the following speeh by President Bush keep Kevin Drum happy?:

"Some skeptics of democracy assert that the traditions of Islam are inhospitable to representative government. This cultural condescension, as Ronald Reagan termed it, has a long history.

After the Japanese surrender in 1945, a so-called Japan expert asserted that democracy in that former empire would, quote, ``never work.''

Another observer declared the prospects for democracy in post-Hitler Germany were, and I quote, ``most uncertain, at best.'' He made that claim in 1957.

Seventy-four years ago, the Sunday London Times declared nine-tenths of the population of India to be, quote, ``illiterates, not caring a fig for politics.'' Yet, when Indian democracy was imperiled in the 1970s, the Indian people showed their commitment to liberty in a national referendum that saved their form of government.

Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country or that people or this group are ready for democracy, as if freedom were a prize you win from meeting our own Western standards of progress.

In fact, the daily work of democracy itself is the path of progress. It teaches cooperation, the free exchange of ideas, peaceful resolution of differences. "

posted by: David Thomson on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]
Any others doubts?

posted by: e.r. on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Wellesley and Thomson,

The reason why it won't work is two fold. First of all the current conception of democracy being pushed in Iraq and Afghanistan is written to conservative Washington specs insofar as extreme privatization, figurehead governments, toleration for corruption (Drug-lord Warlords, Chalabi, etc.) and constitutions dictacted to the people's.

Even McCain has complained about the high-handed approach. Now if democracy becomes a code-word for losing autonomy, no large group of people will accept such a situation for long even as Americans would reject another country telling them how to ammend our Constitution.

Furthermore, pogrom is a very telling word. What it means is 'cultural assimilation and annihilation'. Even our friendly nations as measured by world surveys don't like the overwhelming spread of US culture and ideas. Even as we attempt to impose our culture on other countries, it will be interpreted as cultural hegemony. It already is being done so.

It ain't enough in the eyes of the neo-cons that these other countries might become democracies. Afterall, democratic peoples like Spain, France, Germany, and Britain might have peoples who disagree with us.

Instead they want client-states. And producing that would take a pogrom. Hence the use of the term. Democracy is a grand thing, until is reduced to a pretext for enslaving other nations that is.

posted by: Oldman on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

I read Bush's comments on democracy in Iraq as a statement of faith. It's entirely consistent with most Americans' understanding of their country's mission in the world, and to the many Iraqis now trying very hard to overcome their own country's history it sounds a theme of shared ideals. The importance of this to people whose goal of a humane, modern government in Iraq are shared by few other Arabs should not be underestimated.

The reference to "cultural condescension" is well calculated to make criticism from the omnitolerant political left more difficult. So as someone who does not reside there let me point out that such condescension is amply justified. Arab culture is not Japanese or German culture. Germany and Japan threw the world into turmoil because despite their cultural flaws they were able to build immensely strong polities. Nothing comparable has been built in the Arab world for centuries. This is not to say democracy cannot succeed in Iraq, and since we have committed ourselves to that objective there is nothing for it but to try to reach it. The point is rather that democracy faces very long odds in that part of the world; there is nothing supernatural about its power to transform backward and inferior cultures.

posted by: ZAthras on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Mr. Thompson,

In response to the question, oldman writes that he sees two reasons why he considers Iraq (and he adds afghan)to be faltering military campaigns.

First, their constitutions are written to conservative washington specs, and second, well, he never really says - as he gets distracted defending the word 'pogrom', without explaining it's origin - but I think we can infer that he menas that the second is that this same 'washington' wants client-states, not democracies.

Now, neither point addresses his original contention, as per usual, so my question to you is this:

Should you or I take the bait and respond to the errors in his even more muddled tangent, or hold him to discussing his original point?

Or, would you prefer one, and leave me the other?
And perhaps someone else can remind him why 'pogrom' was a telling way to attack 'neo-cons'?

posted by: Art Wellesley on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

Mr. Zathras,

Once again, though I would contest with you the eventual outcome, I defer to your well reasoned argument about "culutral condescension". Much as I'd like to use the post-war Ger/Jpn argument to attack those critical of the analogy, I'm afraid it's use is as flawed as you point out.

posted by: Art Wellesley on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

I appreciate the flow of this discussion because it attempts to learn from history to understand the present. I recently read _the Thousand Year War_ by Richard Maybury, where his descriptions make it look like tribal warfare and outside hegemony have been the norm in the Middle East. Because the USA has lots of bigger weapons and a bigger economic resource base does not ensure that it can change in a few months what has taken thousands of years to create.
I linked to this thread in my wiki so that other readers can join in. Http://

posted by: JN Gresham on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

I may only be 17 years old and i dont know a whole lot but i do know that i agree with the 1st guy on here Dan... i have not heard or seen anything positive happen all i see is its getting worse and worse My friend is dead because Bush can't look bad "if i need to send more thats what i have to do" thats what Bush's exact words were from a newspaper article there are soooo many people dying everyday and its getting to be more and more people look online notice in december it was only every couple days people were dying and the ending of february to today a US soldier has died every single day so you tell me what positive stuff is coming out of this war

posted by: Megan on 11.05.03 at 03:50 PM [permalink]

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