Monday, December 19, 2005

There is more testing and sacrifice before us

President Bush has been speaking about Iraq again (here's the full transcript). As usual, much of what he had to say was misleading and disingenuous. For example, this enormous oversimplification of the position of critics of the "war" on terror is a beauty, even by his high standards:
If you think the terrorists would become peaceful if only America would stop provoking them, then it might make sense to leave them alone.
Yes, Mr President, that is quite true. It's also completely irrelevant.* I bet he's really good at building scarecrows.

Apart from the straw men, there's also quite a lot of the new "we are learning" attitude in the speech.
In all three aspects of our strategy -- security, democracy, and reconstruction -- we have learned from our experiences, and fixed what has not worked. We will continue to listen to honest criticism, and make every change that will help us complete the mission.
There is, I think, actually some truth to this. The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, which sets out the three pillar approach he mentions, isn't too far away from what I'd like to see implemented in Iraq. The US administration has undoubtedly learned from its mistakes to some extent. The problem, as I've mentioned before, is that the knowledge needed to avoid making those mistakes was available before the invasion even started. (I am going to write a post on the security element and the difference between current military strategy and the previous one shortly.) The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq isn't a bad plan, although it's by no means perfect. The question as to why it's taken 30 months for the administration to work out a halfway decent plan has yet to be answered.

Bush also can't resist overstating the gains made in Iraq.
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.
That ally will be the new Iraqi government with the strict Islamic theocratic attitudes and the rather troubling pro-Iranian element, will it? The claim that the vote means that the US has an ally "of growing strength in the fight against terror" is, at best, premature.

And what is the US fighting against exactly?
I see a global terrorist movement that exploits Islam in the service of radical political aims -- a vision in which books are burned, and women are oppressed, and all dissent is crushed.
I wonder what Ali Mohaqeq Nasab thinks about that? I suspect he'd quite like to see the US put a stop to book burning, women oppressing, dissent crushing Islamic theocracies. Hasn't happened in Afghanistan though. And in Iraq, pro-Iranian and other radical Islamic clerics have far more influence now than they ever had under Saddam Hussein. The United Iraq Alliance, dominated by religious Shiites, will almost certainly win the largest share of the vote when the results of the elections are announced. One of the most influencial parties in that coalition is the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

If Bush is fighting against radical political Islam, it's really not going very well. To his credit though, this speech is the closest I think I've ever heard him get to a truthful despription of the situation in Iraq. But there's still a long way to go yet.

* I suppose some critics do take this simplistic view. Not sensible ones though.

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