Wednesday, November 30, 2005

New package, same old sh*t

Oh for the naive gentler time of...yesterday, when optimists guessed that President Bush, bowing to both reality on the ground in Iraq, as well as public sentiment in the US, would finally announce his end-game for the war. Yes certainly, in what was being billed as a "major speech", Bush would finally clue the rest of us in on his grand vision.

Such idyllic hours.

Sadly, as it seems with most of Bush's "major" speeches, the speech in Annapolis was simply a re-packaging of the same ol' same ol'. And when I say repackage I mean that literally by way of a document called Victory in Iraq. Some highlights from today's speech:

"Our strategy in Iraq has three elements.

On the political side, we know that free societies are peaceful societies. So we're helping the Iraqis build a free society, with inclusive democratic institutions that will protect the interests of all Iraqis.

We're working with the Iraqis to help them engage those who can be persuaded to join the new Iraq and to marginalize those who never will.

On the security side, coalition and Iraqi security forces are on the offensive against the enemy, cleaning out areas controlled by the terrorists and Saddam loyalists, leaving Iraqi forces to hold territory taken from the enemy, and following up with targeted reconstruction to help Iraqis rebuild their lives.

As we fight the terrorists, we're working to build capable and effective Iraqi security forces, so they can take the lead in the fight and eventually take responsibility for the safety and security of their citizens without major foreign assistance.
And on the economic side, we're helping the Iraqis rebuild their infrastructure, reform their economy and build the prosperity that will give all Iraqis a stake in a free and peaceful Iraq."

So there. Now go shopping.

Or not.

As Dan Froomkin points out this is mere PR and fails to address the issues now on the minds of so many Americans:
* It doesn't answer the most compelling question in contemporary American politics: When are the troops coming home?

* It doesn't even include any objective ways of measuring progress towards an eventual U.S. pullout.

* It is at heart a restatement, rather than a reappraisal, of a strategy that according to the polls the American public has overwhelmingly rejected.

* The White House did not address, not to mention refute, the argument that the continued presence of American troops is making things worse, rather than better.

And Bush's biggest problem:
* And nothing Bush said is likely to change the fact that he has a big credibility problem with most Americans.

That is, Bush faces the biggest problem faced by liars whose lies have become known. It doesn't matter WHAT he says, no-one (except his kool-ade slurping true believers on the right) is going to believe him.

Until some type of measurable progress is seen in Iraq all his PR will be seen as just a re-wording of the same old lies.

And his failure to even hint at what might be deemed measurable progress eliminates even this possibility.

[As a side note, please feel free to slap anyone who uses the term "artificial timetable" when discussing troop withdrawals. Timetables need not be artificial, and indeed are used constantly and helpfully in focusing one's energies and are used in everday life, as well as, I suspect, by the military.

As I noted in a comment over at The Moderate Voice:
Why must a timetable be necessarily "arbitrary"? Humans operate under deadlines constantly, why not in this case? Because the undertaking is daunting?

When JFK set a timetable for putting a man on the moon, necessarily requiring the use of technologies never imagined, let alone workable, was that somehow less daunting?

Timetables, deadlines, quotas, goals, can have a wonderfully focusing effect on the human psyche. Ask any salesman or journalist in the country (or better, ask his manager or editor) and you'll be told that deadlines work.

My position is that by allowing Iraq's leaders and potential leaders the luxury of knowing that our troops have got their backs, forever if need be, they'll continue their parochial disputes ad infinitum.

It's time we do the right thing and demand that Iraqis step up. A timetable will better enable them to do so.

Several months ago I blogged a version of events that, even as I re-read it, doesn't seem now as far-fetched as it did then.

If you'd like to read it you can do so here.

So there.]

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