I found it terribly difficult to work up any energy to crank a post out today. I listened to President Bush’s address last night and I think I may have nodded off a little in the course of it. Perhaps a little too much wine with dinner. I didn’t hear anything I didn’t already know and certainly wasn’t surprised at anything I heard. If you, like practically everybody else didn’t catch it, the complete text is here.
I came away with one question: why? Why did President Bush address the nation? Does he not realize that nearly everyone’s mind is already made up? Is he so insulated? An eternal optimist (the occupational hazard of the politician)? Why?
I am not now and never have been a neoconservative. I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq and take no joy in the prospect of a substantial U. S. military presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future but hasn’t the likelihood of such a thing been obvious since 2003? I’m largely in agreement with the Washington Post editorial:
Mr. Bush’s plan offers, at least, the prospect of extending recent gains against al-Qaeda in Iraq, preventing full-scale sectarian war and allowing Iraqis more time to begin moving toward a new political order. For that reason, it is preferable to a more rapid withdrawal. It’s not necessary to believe the president’s promise that U.S. troops will “return on success” in order to accept the judgment of Mr. Crocker: “Our current course is hard. The alternatives are far worse.”
Note that none of the first-tier presidential aspirants of either party has a plan that’s materially different from the one that’s being offered by President Bush. Combat troops will be rotated out; we’ll maintain a substantial military presence. I think there’s a very simple reason that no alternative plan is being offered: no one can think of any. I’ve been actively soliciting alternative plans that preserve U. S. interests for nearly a year now to very little response. The most common response is There is no hope. You’re screwed. Get thee to a nunnery! I don’t think that’s a plan that’s going to gain a lot of traction. Blog-friend Marc Schulman put it very succinctly in a recent post:
The weakness—the critical weakness—of the case argued by the early-exiters is that it fails to consider the possible—and, perhaps, the probable—consequences of a rapid departure. The creation of a power vacuum into which Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East states would be drawn and genocide are two of the most obvious and gravest of these possible consequences. I am unaware of a single instance of an advocate of rapid withdrawal addressing these critical questions. I may disagree with them, but I could respect the views of those (if I could find them) who, having considered and openly admitted the existence of these risks, have decided they are worth taking in return for saving American lives. To favor an early exit without considering the possible consequences is, in my view, irresponsible—especially for politicians.
If there is a viable alternative plan, what is it? What?
Note that we haven’t heard much lately about viral democracy as a solution to the long-term problem of radical Islamist terrorism. I always thought that was far-fetched but it’s not terribly surprising considering how dysfunctional the Iraqi government is and, in all likelihood, will be for the foreseeable future. Absent that we seem to be completely without a grand strategy in the War on Terror. Has anyone proposed an alternative? Without that we’ll be the captives of events, perpetually waiting for the next attack. If someone’s got such a plan, now would be a good time to trot it out. If not now, when?