. . . Tuesday May 25, 2004

After the Facts

Take a look at this opening line from an NY Times news analysis piece:

“President Bush’s speech on Monday night kicked off a critical five-week period in which the White House must not only make good on its pledge to return self-governance to the Iraqi people but also convince the American electorate that the benefits of deposing Saddam Hussein have outweighed the costs in blood, money and battered prestige.”

Isn’t it sort of amazing that the President wasn’t required to accomplish that before we started the war? Sure, we couldn’t have predicted that some of the aspects of the war and its aftermath would have been this mismanaged. But we certainly knew that the war would cost the lives and limbs of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. And we certainly knew if was a long term assignment. And it could not have been any more clear that the decision to go to war without the support of many allies would cost us a hefty dose of prestige.

Last night’s speech by the President did little to improve opinions here or in Iraq. The major complaint seems to be the lack of specifics and the failure to answer key questions (something that Tony Blair tried to address today).

But there were other problems as well. Once again Bush used his time to reconvince Americans (and Iraqis) that terrorists are in the wrong. There was once again a distinct effort to tie together the war in Iraq and the war on terror – yet there has been little evidence that the former is not a major distraction from the latter. There was also no effort by Bush to take responsibility for some of the errors in Iraq, from Abu Graib, to poor planning, to delayed infrastructure rebuilding to a security system that somehow left the country’s interim president vulnerable to an attack. I am not trying to echo the repeated calls for Bush to apologize. Merely for him to acknowledge what is going on and to send a message that he’s not trying to bullshit the world.

We already knew what Bush was telling us last night. The terrorists are bad and liberty and freedom beat oppression any day. But today, the world needs to hear about security, not liberty.

This is not simply, at this point, a story of good vs evil. It’s a story of good leadership vs bad.

Concentration is important!