Thursday, October 06, 2005

 

Bush Identifies The Enemy

Democrats offer yet more defeatist pessimism

In an excellent speech covering the GWOT, President Bush finally, almost belatedly, names our enemy:
Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Jews and Hindus -- and also against Muslims from other traditions, who they regard as heretics.

Many militants are part of global, borderless terrorist organizations like al Qaeda, which spreads propaganda, and provides financing and technical assistance to local extremists, and conducts dramatic and brutal operations like September the 11th. Other militants are found in regional groups, often associated with al Qaeda -- paramilitary insurgencies and separatist movements in places like Somalia, and the Philippines, and Pakistan, and Chechnya, and Kashmir, and Algeria. Still others spring up in local cells, inspired by Islamic radicalism, but not centrally directed. Islamic radicalism is more like a loose network with many branches than an army under a single command. Yet these operatives, fighting on scattered battlefields, share a similar ideology and vision for our world.
He also outlined progress in the war in Iraq:
The terrorist goal is to overthrow a rising democracy, claim a strategic country as a haven for terror, destabilize the Middle East, and strike America and other free nations with ever-increasing violence. Our goal is to defeat the terrorists and their allies at the heart of their power -- and so we will defeat the enemy in Iraq.

Our coalition, along with our Iraqi allies, is moving forward with a comprehensive, specific military plan. Area by area, city by city, we're conducting offensive operations to clear out enemy forces, and leaving behind Iraqi units to prevent the enemy from returning. Within these areas, we're working for tangible improvements in the lives of Iraqi citizens. And we're aiding the rise of an elected government that unites the Iraqi people against extremism and violence. This work involves great risk for Iraqis, and for Americans and coalition forces. Wars are not won without sacrifice -- and this war will require more sacrifice, more time, and more resolve.

The terrorists are as brutal an enemy as we've ever faced. They're unconstrained by any notion of our common humanity, or by the rules of warfare. No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead, nor should they overlook the advantages we bring to this fight.

Some observers look at the job ahead and adopt a self-defeating pessimism. It is not justified. With every random bombing and with every funeral of a child, it becomes more clear that the extremists are not patriots, or resistance fighters -- they are murderers at war with the Iraqi people, themselves.

In contrast, the elected leaders of Iraq are proving to be strong and steadfast. By any standard or precedent of history, Iraq has made incredible political progress -- from tyranny, to liberation, to national elections, to the writing of a constitution, in the space of two-and-a-half years. With our help, the Iraqi military is gaining new capabilities and new confidence with every passing month. At the time of our Fallujah operations 11 months ago, there were only a few Iraqi army battalions in combat. Today there are more than 80 Iraqi army battalions fighting the insurgency alongside our forces. Progress isn't easy, but it is steady. And no fair-minded person should ignore, deny, or dismiss the achievements of the Iraqi people.

Some observers question the durability of democracy in Iraq. They underestimate the power and appeal of freedom. We've heard it suggested that Iraq's democracy must be on shaky ground because Iraqis are arguing with each other. But that's the essence of democracy: making your case, debating with those who you disagree -- who disagree, building consensus by persuasion, and answering to the will of the people. We've heard it said that the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds of Iraq are too divided to form a lasting democracy. In fact, democratic federalism is the best hope for unifying a diverse population, because a federal constitutional system respects the rights and religious traditions of all citizens, while giving all minorities, including the Sunnis, a stake and a voice in the future of their country. It is true that the seeds of freedom have only recently been planted in Iraq -- but democracy, when it grows, is not a fragile flower; it is a healthy, sturdy tree.
Contrast Bush's optimism with the letter sent to the President yesterday by 40 Senate Democrats. They displayed just the sort of self-defeating pessimism Bush correctly called unjustified:
Our troops are engaged in a struggle in Iraq that could shape the future not only of that nation but the entire region. Despite the fact that our troops have performed heroically for more than 2 ½ years, the situation there remains extremely violent and volatile. There are disturbing reports of increasing sectarian strife, which could lead to a full blown civil war. We are increasingly concerned that Iraq could become what it was not before the war: a haven for radical fundamentalist terrorists determined to attack America and American interests. It is clear our window of opportunity is closing and you need to immediately provide a strategy for success in order to prevent this outcome.

These troubling conditions and the disconnect between how your Administration describes the situation on the ground in Iraq and what Americans see every day on their televisions have eroded the American public's support for the war. In addition, these conditions and contradictions have fueled concerns about whether your Administration has a strategy for success that will preserve our fundamental national security interests and permit us to bring our troops home.
I find the first sentence of each paragraph especially remarkable. The struggle in Iraq could -- could -- shape the future of the region? How insightful. Perhaps they just cannot bring themselves to admit that future of the region hinges almost entirely on the outcome in Iraq. As for the disconnect bewteen the situation on the ground and what we see on television, I've previously addressed that here, here and here. Public perception doesn't match the reality on the ground, which is much more in line with Bush administration claims than it is with the reporting offered by television newscasts. Under these circumstances, its no wonder public support for the war is sagging. Bush needs to deliver more speeches like this one to counteract the effect of media misinformation. He has really been deficient in this area, something which needs to change.

The premise of the Democrats' letter is as preposterous as the questions it asks the President to answer. The Democrats who signed it should be ashamed.

UPDATE: Powerline's John Hinderaker comments on Bush's speech and labels the Democratic response pathetic:
Four years after September 11, neither the Democrats nor anyone else has proposed an alternative to Bush's strategy for long-term victory in the war on terror.

This was another in a series of great speeches in which President Bush has outlined his strategies and policies in the war. By contrast, the Democratic response was pathetic. As usual, it consisted mainly of an appeal to ignorance. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said:
The truth is, the administration's mishandling of the war in Iraq has made us less safe, and Iraq risks becoming what it was not before the war: a training ground for terrorists.
As our readers know, this is a lie. (Here is one of many examples of Saddam's Iraq as a terrorist training center.) But it is a lie that is constantly repeated by the Democrats, and I am sure that many Americans who are not as well informed as our readers believe it.

I haven't seen a report on how many people watched Bush's speech; in fact, I'm only assuming that it was broadcast by someone. My guess is that very few either saw it or will read it in its entirety. Instead, the overwhelming majority depend on what they read about Bush's speech in the newspapers or hear on television news reports. Those articles and reports, with hardly any exceptions, will be carefully framed to minimize the speech's impact.

People used to talk about the Presidency as a "bully pulpit," but I think one lesson of the Bush years is that the President's ability to communicate effectively with the American people, outside of the context of an election campaign, is limited. The real "bully pulpit" belongs to the mainstream press, which is just about unanimously devoted to undermining the President's effort to communicate with, and thereby lead, the American people.

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