The consequences of Bush’s failure to communicate

It’s finally occurred to me what the Democratic strategy is, as far as winning control of the House and Senate–not that revealing this will do anyone any good in the short run. I must admit it’s clever.

Before I get into this, it seems to me that where the Republicans are the most vulnerable is the notion that in congress they suffer from a “culture of corruption”. There have been several Republican congressional representatives who have been charged and found guilty of various crimes like bribery, mostly due to Jack Abramoff’s activities. The latest scandal, that of Florida Republican Rep. Foley, I think benefits Democrats mostly because many in the Republican base are offended by it, because Foley is gay. What made it worse was he was propositioning minors over IM, which is as bad as the child predator scum who proposition teenagers in chat rooms on the internet. What I’m sure has made this even more horrifying is Foley was on the congressional committee that dealt specifically with protecting children from child predators. So let’s face facts. The Republicans in congress have done a fair job of shooting themselves in the foot. Having said this, as far as I’m concerned, the implication that House Speaker Dennis Hastert knew about Foley but did nothing about the problem is a red herring. I haven’t seen convincing evidence that he knew but did nothing about it. In fact the one place that has been pointed out by congressional insiders as needing reform is the board that manages the page program.

Okay. Back to the Democratic strategy. The area where Democrats have been considered weakest is in the War on Terror, as it’s commonly called. What they have done is taken full advantage of the fact that President Bush does not like public speaking, and that he is inarticulate when he does go out in public. This has I’m sure frustrated the members of the public who bother to pay attention to government policy. It’s been a chronic problem with Bush. He has on occasion come out and explained his policy decisions, but he has always seemed reluctant to do so. Every time it seems like he’s been pushed on stage, rather than coming willingly. Usually he doesn’t do this until we’re close to elections. Lately he’s sounded like a broken record, which implies to people that he’s run out of ideas, and merely hoping that things will work out in Iraq in our favor. Everyone expected that the Republicans would continue to win, because the Democrats do not have the stomach to go to the right of the president, which is where the pundits said they would have to go to win. It turns out they don’t. They don’t have to run on winning the war. The winning campaign theme for the Democrats has been “Bush has no plan” for getting us out of Iraq. This has jived with the public’s perception of Bush, and it thereby neutralizes the fact that the Democrats don’t have a plan either. Their excuse is, “What’s the difference? At least we’re a different party. We’re not going to be a bunch of ‘yes’ men.” You want change (whatever that is)? Vote for us! A significant part of the vote against Bush in the 2004 election was a protest vote. I get the feeling this is the same thing. I blame Bush for this. He has lost the confidence of the American public in fighting the war, something most pundits thought was impossible a year ago. This was his to lose. The public has lost so much confidence in him and the Republicans, they’re willing to vote for candidates who have no plan for victory. Instead all they have to offer is we’re going to get the troops out of Iraq in 6 months to a year, victory or not.

The American public has grown weary of the Iraq war, and seems ready to bring it to a speedy end. Unfortunately I think this political mood has gone so far that they will get their wish. Bush apparently has given them no reason to hope for victory. What’s even more unfortunate is the “end” we’ll get will be a false one. We cannot run away from our problems. It doesn’t matter if people think the Iraq war was a mistake. There are no do-overs here, and there’s no getting off this train no matter how badly the public would like to wish it away. There is no reason we should be on the defensive in this war, and yet it seems that’s what the public wants.

As hard as it is to see through the media haze, and the Bush Administration’s reluctance to talk about it, I think they have had a plan for Iraq, and they’re executing it. Something a friend reminded me of as I was talking about this is that the duly elected Iraqi government has really only been constituted for about 5 months. It’s too soon to judge if this is a failed experiment. Some things that PM Maliki has done have not helped matters back here at home. Reports have been filtering back about decisions Maliki has made, like making a statement in support of Hezbollah, and that members of al-Sadr’s militia have been captured and put in prison, and then released by direct order of Maliki. It makes Americans wonder which side he’s on. Is he someone who will fight against the religious zealots who want to kill innocent people via. terrorism, or is he essentially with the terrorists?

The one thing I’ve heard even conservatives admit was a mistake was us not putting a lot of pressure on the Iraqi government to use American and Iraqi forces to capture or kill Muqtada al-Sadr and disband his Mahdi militia. The Iraqi government has tried a program of engagement, which I think is admirable. Rather than fight the different factions, it has tried to get everyone, even some militant groups, to buy in to the Iraqi government, and work through the political process, rather than act in violence. We may have had to go along with the decision to include al-Sadr, since there has been insufficient security in place to stave off attacks by rival groups, and the military can’t be everywhere at once in Iraq as it is. The root of this may have been not putting enough troops in Iraq to secure the peace. Anyway, engagement hasn’t entirely worked, but I think it deserves time.

This has been in a sense an educational process for Iraqis. They have not known democracy for 30 years. They got into the mindset and habit of using violence to resolve political differences. The only way to re-educate them was to try to engage them. al-Sadr in my mind is an exceptional case. Almost from the beginning the Americans have said we need to deal harshly with this guy. al-Sadr’s militia was one of the first major groups to start a fight with American forces back around 2003/2004. The Iraqi government chose to engage al-Sadr and bring him into the political process. He has abused this opportunity, largely at the behest of Iran, from what I hear. He’s received backing from Iran to foment violence. What’s worse is his political party has 25 seats in the parliament, and was a major factor in getting Maliki elected PM. What I’ve heard is going on is that Iran has initiated a program with al-Sadr that is just like the program it used to build up Hezbollah in Lebanon, and that al-Sadr’s militia is at the stage Hezbollah was about 25 years ago. If you want to see what this could turn into, look at what Hezbollah has turned into. It is effectively the government of Lebanon, and is Iran’s proxy in the Israeli-Palestinian region. Iran is deftly using an opportunity to gain influence, and perhaps control of Iraq. I don’t know who’s to blame for this, whether it’s the Iraqi government or the Bush Administration. The Iraqi government has been in sovereign control of the government since 2004, so it’s been making the decisions about how to handle the challenges, with our support.

I don’t think what we’re facing there is a civil war. Like it or not, I think we’re in a proxy war with Iran now, and so far they’re winning, not militarily, but politically. Iran is betting that we don’t have the guts or the political will to confront them where it counts, and so they will ultimately win their objectives to be a heavy influence in Iraq, and to gain nuclear power and weaponry, by default. They see their strategy succeeding with the Democrats gaining in popularity in this election, because they’re seen as the party that wants to take us out of Iraq soon, before the job is done, I might add.

Something that is not well known in the public, but is known in the intelligence community is that Iran helped us in our invasion of Iraq. It was an alliance of convenience. They remembered their war with Saddam’s Iraq during the 1980s and liked the idea of getting rid of him once and for all. Once he was out of the way, their posture changed. One thing is for sure, Iran does not want a democracy next door. It’s too inspiring to its own pro-American discontents at home.

What’s sad is this does not get talked about enough, especially by Bush himself or any of his cabinet. This is exactly the kind of political transformation in the Middle East that the Bush Administration has been pushing for. I refer to an earlier post of mine, “Iraq is not a failure”. In it I refer to Bush’s 2003 speech before the National Endowment for Democracy. It bears repeating:

Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe — because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo.

Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results. As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace.

What’s striking to me is seeing some of my countrymen doubt this message. I used to doubt it, but I listened to and read what Middle East experts said about what gives rise to Islamic extremism, and I’ve listened to Bush’s speeches on this subject. I became convinced he is on the right path with his policy. In short, we will not be free, until the Middle East is free from tyranny. There are those in the region who are ready for this change, but there are many who are not. Bush’s critics are right that the war will be won politically, not militarily, but the impression I get from the critics is they believe what’s needed is a settlement with the region’s leaders, and to me this is way too limited. What’s required is a change in the Middle Eastern mind–a change in the culture. Working with the leaders is fine, but if all it means is detente, then all we’re doing is delaying the inevitable–allowing the jihadists to regroup and to attack us again.

The Middle East doesn’t have to look and act like the United States. I don’t expect that. What it desperately needs, for its own sake as well as ours, are governments that address the needs of their own people, respect for human rights, bring a certain amount of law and order, and a program of economic development. The rest is up to the people of the region.

As long as our government is focused on how to win the war, then I have faith we will be okay. All of the political analysts are predicting that the Democrats will regain control of the House of Representatives. There’s some hedging as to whether they’ll gain control of the Senate as well. What I detect is that the analysts are leaning towards the Republicans retaining a slight majority there. What I fear with a Democratic controlled House, is that they will have a strong temptation to tie down the Bush Administration, and even try to evict it, should they gain control of both houses, taking our eye off the prize. It appears to me that besides focusing on domestic issues, the Democrats don’t have a foreign policy program to offer as an alternative to the Bush policy, except “working with our European allies”, who believe that we just have to put up with terrorism. It’s a common human trait to consider something irrelevant if you don’t understand it. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Democrats chose to engage in these harmful distractions, since it’s apparent to me they don’t understand Bush’s policy, and don’t understand how to deal with the terrorist threat. Their line is what’s happening in our own government is a bigger threat to us than the jihadists. They couldn’t be more wrong.

There are moments in politics when you can see that it is not all driven by money. This House election is going to be one of them. The Republicans have outraised the Democrats for both the House and Senate elections, yet the Democrats will likely win one house of congress. Money can’t buy credibility if the people don’t understand your message. Why is it up to us bloggers to try to explain this stuff??

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