Strategic Blunders R Us

14 November 2005

Bush Counterattacks on Wrong Front

President Bush stood before a military audience on Veterans’ Day and attacked those who criticized his administrations use of prewar intelligence. The Sunday talk shows gave it huge airplay. What no one brought up was the fact that Mr. Bush was fighting on the wrong front. He can still save his second term if he focuses on how the troops are getting out of Iraq, but he’s worse than a lame duck if he insists on talking about how they got there in the first place.

Brilliant tactics in the service of poor strategy is the hallmark of this White House. A military cakewalk into Baghdad has turned into a political quagmire, and Keynesian counter-cyclical tax reductions to keep the post-9/11 economy afloat has turned into tax cuts for every reason imaginable (economy too hot? cut taxes; too cool? cut taxes; just right? cut taxes). These guys are pretty good at winning the battle, but they haven’t a clue what war they are fighting.

When it comes to pre-war maneuvering, Mr. Bush accused his critics of revisionism. This is laughable coming from a president whose justification for the war in Iraq has moved from removing weapons of mass destruction from the Saddamite arsenal, to removing an evil dictator, to spreading democracy in the Middle East to fighting terrorists in Iraq so America doesn’t have to fight them in California. Until recently, one could maintain that Mr. Bush was simply wrong about the WMD issue, even if he was wrong before, his willful wrongness makes him a liar now. And that is an accusation one should take extremely seriously, as it is just one step short of treason and crimes against humanity.

He stated on Friday that everybody thought Saddam Hussein had WMD. That is false, and a brief reading of the record proves it. The (in)famous Downing Street Memo says that the intelligence was being fixed to suit policy. Andrew Wilkie, an Australia career intelligence officer, resigned from the Australian version of the CIA days before the war because there was no proof that the Saddamite regime was a threat. And the CIA reported in January 2003 that the Iraqi Ba’athists were more or less disarmed. Persisting in the falsehood cannot be anything but a lie. Colin Powell went before the UN Security Council and laid out America’s case for war, and it turns out he was sent there with terribly wrong information. The casus belli was bull from the get-go.

But Mr. Bush could have merely said that arguing over the past won’t get America anywhere, that the real debate should be on how to get the troops home while accomplishing some good for Iraq. This would make the entire issue go away until Scooter Libby’s next court appearance, when the same approach could be used. However, that is a bit too clever for this bunch. They seem to have a need to be right about things that don’t even matter. When things are going well, this doesn’t matter too much, but when most of the country thinks a president is doing a bad job (Mr. Bush’s approval ratings are 40% at best right now), then one must be more selective in the battles one fights. This journal doesn’t support Mr. Bush or his policies, but it is difficult to watch an American president (on whom the whole world relies for competence) bumble his way through a fifth year.

© Copyright 2005 by The Kensington Review, J. Myhre, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent.
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