Monday, December 19, 2005

Bush addresses the nation

At 9PM (Sunday) on the east coast, George Bush addressed the nation, making his case for the war in Iraq. Fox News broadcast it; I don't think any other national networks bothered, which was disturbing. The president acknowledged that intelligence leading up to the Iraq war was wrong, challenged "defeatists" to adopt a more positive attitude, and painted an optimistic picture about our progress in the war. I give the president credit for taking responsibility for his decisions and for acknowledging the faulty intelligence.

Some of the post-speech commentary on Fox (Brit Hume, Morton Kondracke, and Fred Barnes) focused on Bush's not having made this sort of "Fireside Chat"-style speech earlier in the war. I agree: it would have been nice. While it's ridiculous to expect the entire nation to get behind the Iraq project (the president said as much in his speech), Bush could have made his case earlier on, and restated it often.

I agree with Bush that we have to stay the course. I was against the war, but see us as now being in the mix: we have little choice but to see this through. I agree that a defeatist attitude doesn't help. I would, however, like more clearly defined notions of victory and defeat-- the antipodes Bush mentioned in his address.

Bush didn't get into any details about the economic repercussions of continuing the war in Iraq, but I got the impression that this speech wasn't meant to be about details. Fox News reporters did take time out to comment that other networks wouldn't be likely to broadcast Bush's speech-- likely a conservtive dig against the more liberal national networks: ABC, NBC, and CBS.

One thing Bush said struck me:

As these achievements come, it should require fewer American troops to accomplish our mission. I will make decisions on troop levels based on the progress we see on the ground and the advice of our military leaders -- not based on artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington.

I hope he keeps this promise-- the promise about whom to check with regarding troop strength. I'm not sure how in touch Bush actually is with the opinions of military leaders, but he'd better be in touch with them now: he's effectively put them on alert.

One thing I wish Bush had done in this speech: I wish he'd acknowledged the help of the other members of the coalition. While Bush did take time to address his domestic critics (at least in a general way), this wasn't enough: he should also have given a solemn nod to the countries that have chosen to throw their lot in with us. I understand that Bush's focus was on American doubters, but those doubters also need to hear that America is in fact not alone in this project.

It was a decent speech-- short on details, but providing something of an overarching framework. A shame that the national networks chose not to broadcast it and comment on it. A further shame that so many Americans already-- and stupidly-- believe Bush has nothing important to say. I'm not optimistic about the long term effects of our project in Iraq, and I'm no fan of Bush, but this speech from the Oval Office was welcome.


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