The President's stirring and illlogical words on Iraq

Saturday, September 02, 2006 at 02:56 PM

All the stops are out now, folks.  The polls have been consistently bad for Republicans as we approach the November election, and the White House political consultants--all 3,000,000 of them, give or take a few--have decided on their last ditch theme and every single one of the players on the WH team is trying to ram it down the public's throat.  The President repeated the theme today in his radio address, using stirring rhetoric that, unfortunately, merely demonstrates what a large con this theme really is.

Here's the rhetoric:

this war is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation -- the right of all people to speak, worship, and live in liberty. On the other side are those driven by tyranny and extremism -- the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest.
We are using every element of national power to defeat the terrorists.
...A vital part of our strategy to defeat the terrorists is to help establish a democratic Iraq, which will be a beacon of liberty in the region and an ally in the global war on terror.

Okay.  So it's the ideological battle of the new century.  Freedom itself will rise or fall with the outcome.  Couldn't be more important to us, to the world, to the universe.

Now if that is a sincere belief, you have to ask, why has the war been fought with minimal everything?  Minimal troops, minimal involvement of the civilian population in the U.S., and absolutely minimal participation of the affluent class in this country which, by and large, was not serving in the military, the reserves, or the National Guard?  Why was this stirring rhetoric today not accompanied by news that all this minimalism was ending, that the battle really was crucial and we needed to start preparing for a draft, for a way to get the country's citizens involved, invested, and invigorated?  Why was announcement of this monumental battle of good versus evil not accompanied by news that Donald Rumsfeld, the name on almost every misstep to date in this crucial battle, was being replaced as head of Defense?

If, on the other hand, there is no need for this degree of national involvement, for the political beheading of Rumsfeld, Duke of Wrong, how can the President say with a straight face that this is the ideological battle of the century?  Even a century that is a mere 6 years old?

Can you reach any reasonable conclusion other than that this is more PR, more consultant-driven drivel?  I can't.

Other signs support the same "this is PR drivel" conclusion:

++The cranking up of the rhetoric to portray all anti-American sentiment in Iraq (indeed, the entire Middle East) as fascist.

++The increasing emphasis on the claim that we must "fight them there, or they will follow us here."

As David Sanger notes in his NY Times piece today, the new rhetoric is very similar to the old "domino theory" that kept us bogged down in Vietnam long after we should have had the sense to disengage.

And I'll make the argument that it was easier and less harmful to stay in Vietnam than it is to stay in Iraq, if only because Vietnam did at least nominally ask us to go there, and the country did remain functional in most respects while we were there.

You can't fight a war by PR, you can't maintain endless support for a war by PR, and even a massive propaganda machine can't endlessly conceal the reality of Iraq, especially when the Pentagon has to keep reporting that reality to Congress.

And, most importantly, you don't start a war for manufactured reasons, while keeping the real reasons from the public.  If you do start a war that way, you had better pray the war goes well and the war goes quickly.  Which this war most certainly has not.

I think the U.S. "lost" this war when it was sold to the public, and I don't think all the high-minded rhetoric in the world will change that.