Leadership and Challenge

I’ve been discussing the need for Bush to articulate and sell his plans in order to build and maintain the public support that will be essential to winning this war. Trent has responded, disagreeing.

Calpundit posts on the same subject, and says:

I most definitely don’t accept Steven Den Beste’s crude view that the president shouldn’t tell the American public about his larger goals because “They don’t need to know, and can’t be trusted to know.” This is not a specific operational aspect of war that needs to be kept secret from our enemies, it’s an argument about the overarching principle behind American policy and America’s place in the world for the next several decades. If the American public … and the world … can’t be trusted with that, we should just pack up and go home. Steven should be ashamed of himself for writing such a thing.

He follows up with a post quoting James Woolsey, in an article in The Guardian:

America and the western world are at war with ‘fascist’ Middle East governments and totalitarian Islamists…..[The parallels with the Cold War are:] that it will last a very long time – decades; that it will sporadically involve the use of military force, as did the Cold War in Korea for example; but that an important component would be ideological. I would add that, just as we eventually won the Cold War – and when I say ‘we’ here, I always mean Britain, the United States, the democracies, our allies – it was in no small measure because, while containing the Soviet Union and its allies militarily and with nuclear deterrence, we undermined their ideology.

What they said, all the way.

And I’ll echo Kevin strongly in disagreeing with Den Beste and Trent (and other commenters who have supported Trent here); it is critical that Bush articulate and sell his vision for why we are at war and what the war will look like – not tactically or diplomatically, but historically – and a clear vision of what we are really fighting and what we are fighting for. Because we will win this war with ideology, belief, and determination, and the role of the leader is in no small part to express those and to embody them so that the rest of us will internalize them and come to act on them.

It is a high standard, but we have had wartime Presidents – including the rich, spoiled sons of privilege – who have met it, and by the time we win this war, we will have had one or more Presidents who have met it. The challenge isn’t beyond Bush, and I hope that he can grow to meet it.

73 thoughts on “Leadership and Challenge”

  1. I concur.

    I like Kevin Drum, even though sometimes find him unserious. I do agree with him now, however, and with you as well.

    And with James Woolsey most of all. He says it so well, and is exactly right.

    (I agree with Den Beste on a general level, though, meaning that some of our operational strategy really must be kept quiet. The general strategy should be public, though, now that we have a foothold in Iraq.)

  2. Ditto. On so many levels, sharing the grand strategy isn’t a burden – it’s an opportunity.

    Trent thinks that doing so in the face of a disloyal opposition is a bad idea. On the contrary, I think that if one believes in a disloyal opposition, they should be even more eager to take this opportunity now that the Iraqi Rubicon has been crossed. If done in a serious, intensive, sustained fashion, I think it could have the same effect as the Humvees with loudspeakers that accompanied the M-1 tanks in Iraq. You know, the ones broadcasting insults to the fedayeen’s manhood so they’d come roaring out in their pickup trucks to challenge the tanks. Bring on Kooknich and the rest of the idiotarians!

    I’ll add one item, though: Porphy has a very good point when he notes that the strategy _is_ being shared. A lot of speeches are being made, and documents published, they have real substance to them. For whatever reason, serious discussion is not happening via the media. George Bush isn’t entirely to blame here… but he’s the flag bearer, whcih means the Republicans need to find a way to get that message out in the teeth of an often-hostile print/TV media. It’s an important aspect of the long-term war.

    No one said that being Commander-in-Chief was easy.

  3. It’s an open secret. Just because Bush can’t lay it out publicly doesn’t mean it’s not known and understood. And I mean middle America, not the blogosphere. People aren’t stupid.

    Lefties — often even the sensible ones — don’t see this, of course, because they swim in a sea of like-feeling folks who find conservative, pro-American, or “Jacksonian” positions alien and requiring extensive explanation simply to register. That folks might reach such positions -without- such explanation and soul-searching… Unthinkable! It’s a form of tone-deafness.

    Anyway we don’t -need- public attention to this stuff until there’s another crisis, or election. High visibility like the pre-Iraq debates means support here but also resentment abroad, as administration officials have pointed out… Lefty media and politicians look to be getting away with undermining BS now while the nation dozes, but things will look mighty different in the campaign season, when it counts. That’s when goals and grand strategy are tested for real.

    (Incidentally one might note that the Dems are going on -their- offensives in no small part because it’s their campaign season. And if any Dems don’t like where it’s taking the party, now’s the time to speak up -as a Democrat-. It’s your time now — Bush’s comes later.)

    Hasn’t Bush well & repeatedly demonstrated that sometimes saying nothing for a while is the best strategy? Indeed, how -did- he get that congressional Iraq vote anyway……….

  4. im not sure what his opinion would be about this, but vdh is one person that comes to mind when i think about my thoughts on this discussion. he has written quite a bit about the value of being unpredictable as well as about an informed public. (id include links but will have to go looking for them at some later point).

    personally i would split the difference between the two sides here… i understand and agree with the sentiment expressed by a.l. and others, but recognize that its contextual application isnt always that simple. sometimes the best way to be honest is to be indirect. i do not agree with what sdb and trent are specifically saying, but they are absolutely right in their underlying point. a little slight of hand can go a long way.

    others may have started this war, but we will fight back how we choose, when we choose. what is beyond choice or doubt is that we will strike back hard and we will be lethal. we already have in fact done this, and will continue to do so.

    engaging the public in open discussion and debate about all of this is good. an informed and partipartory citizenry is one of our greatest strengths, and is the model on which our military operates to such an effective and lethal degree. unpredictability in both international conflict and domestic politics is also significant and necessary. this discussion we are having should not be lining up on sides dividing healthy policy from healthy policy. we must have both raw freedom and the threat of total unpredictability running through our veins and showing in our actions. as joe likes to point out, we are engaged in 4th generation warfare. these are not conflicts characterized by columns of troops linining up on opposing sides and waiting for daylight for mutually agreed battle to begin. this is a war that knows no 4th wall. if war is politics by another means, our actions must achieve those means. that is the standard we must set for ourselves in our grand policy debate.

    we can and we must have the essense of what both would-be “sides” in this discussion are attempting to communicate. we cannot treat our own population in the same cynical way as the european and islamist governments we criticize so readily treat theirs. i do not however think it is the case that we are doing so… i dont agree with sdb when he says its a matter of degree and meticulously limited context. i think he gives up too much in choose that as his justification for his underlying point of how important it is to remain unpredicatble in war (or to paraphrase emerson to the best of my memory: “how i wish i had never spoken with authority so others would not always think they know me by what i have said in the past”).

    i think he also gives up too much (maybe just tired of having to defend the war from all the mewling quagmirists) when he dismisses the wmd threat as if it were a “necessary embellishment”.
    of course wmd were never the single dominant reason to go to war. but did the administration exagerate the threat? i dont think so in the least bit.

    a nuke in saddams hands before the end of this decade is a pretty immediate threat. saddam as first customer in line to buy north korean nukes is quite a scary thought also. the administration laid out all of the arguments for going to war. they have have chosen which to emphasize more, but it is not an american right to demand the administration regulate its emphasis in any specific way. fundamentally, the advocates of intervention – the bush administration included – told the truth. they engaged the american public – and the world – in a vigorous and lengthy debate… which many of us here participated in.

    seeing the results, i think they were pretty damn succesful in mixing the essential of what we are all looking for here… the unpredicatability of military action along with the highly informed populace we would expect of a free nation. if that level of participation and information isnt high enough for our standards, it may have more to do with the interest levels of the public for learning more than soundbites about all of this than it has to do with anything else.

  5. Well, first off I want to say that I’m heartened to see that the Guardian has finally come around to supporting the Western Democracies – Britain, the United States, the countries that weren’t considered “our allies” by The Guardian before.

    Better late than never, I suppose. I’ll be happy to see them supporting us and our allies in the current struggle, too. . .~10+ years after it ends they will have been all for us in it, I’m sure.

    For now, since the people they consider allies in the Fight for Freedom are a bit different from those we and our allies might pick, I tend to take their words with a grain of salt.

    On Target

    The first thing one notices is that all the people claiming Bush hasn’t outlined a strategic vision of what is involved here are all the people who first slipped the various statements he’s made on the subject – from the speech at West Point a little over a year ago, to the document outlining America’s global policy (the exact name of which slips my mind at the moment, it’s been so long since it was refered to – and then, disparigingly and distortively), to the vanished segments of his State of the Union Speech (he may as well not have uttered everything except a single sentence), and going back even before then to his major Post Sept. 11th speeches.

    IMO, the more I think about this subject and the more that I am able to recover from the cobwebs of memory, the real problem isn’t that Bush has failed to articulate a vision of what is involved and how we will pursue our war aims – the problem is that some folks didn’t like the vision he outlines, but rather than deal with it honestly they claim he failed to articulate one at all.

    This is sort of similar to the way the broad media treated Blair’s speech before the Joint Session of Congress; like Winston Churchill’s at Fulton, MI, which outlined what was involved in the Cold War, Blair’s speech articulated just about everything involved in the war – but it was barely referenced in the news that night and has vanished from public view since. It’s like a rock was thrown into a tranquil pool and produced no ripples at all.

    (Also, this contradicts one of the widespread “Memes” out there, that We don’t care what our allies think and We won’t listen to anyone but ourselves; actually, We do – it’s the other folks who don’t pay attention and then claim we’re not willing to cooperate with others on the Big Picture, only letting them tag along).

    Blair & Bush and various administration officials have *ALL* articulated exactly what they are being accused of not communicating. However, since large elements of the vision they outline are antipathetic to the institutions that communicate information to the public, well. . .we get what we have;

    forces out there creating the “perception” that Bush has failed to do what he has done. The failure hasn’t been on Bush’s part – responsibility lies elsewhere, within rather collapsed, malfunctioning civil institutions. In a free society, we’re not supposed to have to rely on the aparatus of The State for everything.

    I could go on, rather pointedly – and resignedly. But I won’t.

  6. When the Democratic opposition is being completely irrational. Bush owes them nothing. The only time Bush needs to deploy arguments on grand strategy for the war is prior to a major combat campaign like Iraq and prior to elections, IOW, for his maximum political benefit.

    That is why Bush did not engage Democrats until the run up to the 2002 elections and until before combat in Iraq. And he will do so again to crucify the Democratic Presidential nominee for 2004.

    The whole UN approval campaign was primarily for the benefit of Tony Blair, an ally. You risk things for the sake of real allies. Pro-war liberals haven’t been real allies to Bush in the war. They have behaved far to much like French co-dependents to be trusted by the Bushies. And as Rummie reminded all and sundry, there are limits to what you do for even real allies, like when he said America could conquer Iraq without Britain when it looked like Blair was going wobbly. It was manifestly demonstrated we could have.

    The issue with the US is that we have to small an Army for the post war reconstruction, made up of the wrong kind of units. It is an issue that the Democrats have ignored like they have ignored the Saudi Wahhabi Lobby connection to Bush.

    Bush can get away with a lot, and make a lot of mistakes, when his opposition is “…on the Planet Zongo” as Steyn has recently put it.

    This pro-war liberal demand for Bush to have this debate is a demand that he do the work pro-war liberals should be doing for themselves, in their own party. Sorry, politics doesn’t work that way. Bush owes you nothing and less than nothing.

    If you pro-war liberals want to convince your circle of friends that the war is good for America. You will have to do it for yourselves.

  7. porphy, i agree completely and that was very well said.

    trent, are there any more “pro-war liberals” among us? i thought it was pretty clear that most if not all who may have called themselves that in the past (i flirted with it personally) have been going through a period of profund reconsideration of whether there is any value whatsoever in the old tired arguments over liberalism that you seem to want to go back to.

    some here are still resisting the urges to be done with the hysterical anti-war left and its appeasers among the pro-war only when it suits them, so-called-liberals. it is a hard thing to go through shedding a self conception and identity that has been so familiar from what is now becoming clear to be a world that no longer exists. some are adjusting more rapidly than others. you should be more willing to accept when the people you are engaged in discussion with are admitting that a large part of them was wrong… and should also realize that this does not automatically make you right.

  8. Joe,

    Take den Beste’s article and change the term “Arab” to “Democratic Party”.

    The Bush Administration put up their grand strategy a year ago. There was no serious discussion.

    There CAN’T be a serious discussion given the present state of the Democratic Party.

    Their noses have to be rubbed in the mud, and their illusions shattered, before there can be such a discussion. Just as we have to shatter the Arabs’s fantasies before serious reform of their loser culture can start. Our conquest and occupation of Iraq is only the start of both.

    NOTHING President Bush says can give the Democrats a backbone. That they have to discover for themselves. Only then can the discussion you want start.

    Until then the Democrats will be justly ignored. They don’t want a discussion. They want a one-sided diatribe by them. “Stop the world – I want to get off!”

    And national elections will resemble baseball arbitration. Each side puts up their offers and the arbitrator picks the one he thinks is most reasonable. All or nothing. Win or lose.

    Tough for the Democrats.

  9. There is a security concept called need to know. This means you have access to the classified information you need to know to do your job. Access to more than that has no benefit.

    Steven Den Beste understands this. Kevin Drum does not.

  10. Tom is correct, and additionally Keven Drum needs read some history.

    If, for example, FDR had laid out some sort of “Grand Strategic Vision” other than say unconditional surrender of our enemies, just what do you think the Germans, Japanese, and Italians would have done with that information? Grand deceptions such as the ones to protect the Sicily invasion (and pinned several German divisions in the Balkans) and Fortitude (the deception campaign to protect the Normandy D-Day landings) would have been far harder to accomplish.

    SDB is not claiming that we can’t trust the “people,” Keven’s argument here is a classic straw man, what SDB is pointing out that we can’t trust that such information can’t and won’t get into the hands of the enemy. The trust issue here must be that we, the people, need have some trust in our elected representatives to the right thing to protect us. And if you look at the results so far, I think that trust is pretty well placed.

    If you want a broad articulation on the scale of “unconditional surrender” or like that of the cold war, then go read Bush’s speeches and those of the vice President. It is all there, on the same broad type of outlines like FDR, Truman, Ike, Reagan, etc., before him.

    If you choose to not see the forest because of all those trees getting in the way, there is nothing that I or the President can say or do that will open your eyes. You have to do that yourself.

  11. OOPS! My first line should read, “Fred is correct…”

    As to broad strategy, go read the National Security document on the White House webpage.

  12. Joe writes:

    “For whatever reason, serious discussion is not happening via the media.”

    Let me think…why wouldn’t the media want a serious discussion?..hmm. Wouldn’t they want to help the Democrats by giving their side of the serious discussion more airtime?

    I’ll bet if they keep waiting they’ll get a serious discussion in September 2004.

  13. I respectfully disagree with A.L. on the details. Anyone paying attention to the president or his Administration clearly understands why we are at war, and what the contours of that war are. In short, U.S. policy as enunciated by the president is: “terrorism is a threat to free nations and liberty; the U.S. will fight terrorism; the U.S. will not distinguish between terrorists and nation’s supporting terrorism; the U.S. faces no greater threat than terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction; the U.S. will act unilaterally and preemptively, if necessary, to defend itself and liberty from the threat of terrorism.” Where’s the confusion?

    There is no honest confusion. Supporters and opponents alike understand the policy. The dispute is over the manifestations of that policy: war, fought unilaterally and preemptively against a largely hidden enemy.

    That some refuse to hear it, or are not completely convinced by it, or are disappointed that fellow liberals/leftists aren’t convinced doesn’t mean the case has not been made. The president and the administration, I think, respect the intelligence of the American people, and find no reason to mimic Al Gore and continuously lecture the citizenry as if we are collectively stupid. There is no subterfuge, no rhetorical slight of hand; no hiding the ball. This isn’t a war about oil; this isn’t a war about American Empire; this isn’t a Christian Crusade on behalf of Israel or against Islam. I think this is simply a matter where either you get it; you don’t get it; or you refuse to get it.

    The ones who don’t get it; those who think America is to blame; those who think it is all about oil; those who think it is about American Empire; those who think it is a Christian crusade on behalf of Israel or against Islam; those who hate their culture and civilization; they will never get it until they are sitting in an airplane plowing into the skyscraper at 400 mph; or they are otherwise made direct victims of terrorism. Engaging them for the purpose of persuasion is worse than useless – it is a distraction from the task at hand. They will never support our war against terrorism – all we can hope is they never flip to the other side and become effectively enemies.

    America’s problem is with those who refuse to get it. A myriad of domestic and international political and philosophical cross currents result in a sizeable part of America and apparent majorities in Europe and Canada, as well as their governments and members of the UNSC resembling the O.J Simpson jury, writ large. And by that I mean their petty, parochial, partisan politics; their frustrations with or envy of American wealth and power; or their anger with the current Administration’s discounting of their pet projects like Kyoto or the ICC has led them to willfully ignore the evidence before their eyes so they can make their superfluous political points or defend their worldviews. In the face of such willful intransigence, it’s Bush’s fault for not making the case? These people hold America’s security less dear than their cherished dreams of a transnationalist progressive world subordinating national sovereignty, especially American sovereignty. Theirs is an America for which, like the Simpson jury’s LAPD, the use of power is regarded as so threatening that it must be constrained, even if to their own detriment. Ironic, isn’t it, that their transnational progressive dreams aren’t possible without American arms to secure the peace necessary for such projects?

    Complaining about the absence of a clearly articulated “grand-strategy” misrepresents the problem. The problem isn’t salesmanship; it is disinterested buyers.

    And here the Cold War is useful – but in contrast. Unlike nearly monolithic Communism with dominion over contiguous geography, armed with unconventional weapons and an expansionist ideology; our enemy is dispersed and is engaged in an ideological civil war within its own culture; an ideological civil war fueled by centuries of cultural failure. And the values of the West, America its exemplar, is the most direct threat to the values of the Islamist fascist insurgency.

    So we are at war to defend ourselves from this threat – but our enemies aren’t explicitly Arab or Islamic nations – they are more like the Viet Cong in Vietnam (and that is probably the only comparison to the Vietnamese War of any utility), often hiding in plain sight. There were those who resisted U.S. efforts (as has been frequently discussed on this board, American Democrats by and large after 1968 and the international Left) against Communism, although the threat was both clearer and more transparent. It is no accident that these usual suspects have coalesced in opposition to a war in which the enemy is more elusive; his armaments not entirely knowable; and his cause often supported by near-innocents because of their own frustrations and failures.

    Toss in the irrational but powerful impulses of guilt and cultural self-loathing held by contemporary Liberals, their control of elite opinion shaping institutions and the larger western tradition of self-examination and we are left with what should be obvious: a clear understanding of our strategy, clearly articulated; but doubted by those who question the nature of the threat, uncertain of our innocence, believe us somehow responsible for provoking our enemies’ actions or, at best, not convinced that the manifestations of that policy (war, unilaterally and preemptively waged, if necessary) are the fairest and best ways to proceed.

    Blaming the president for this is like blaming him for the weather (and please, don’t get started on global warming…!). No one can currently break this impasse. The best person to try, to date, has been Christopher Hitchens. And we’ve all seen how the doubters have accepted his analysis.

  14. Has it occured to anyone that maybe the reason Bush hasn’t explicitly layed out this kind of grand strategy is that he doesn’t intend to do any such thing? That maybe his international policy is exactly like his domestic policy — grab-bag opportunism conducted with no regard whatsoever for the long term? That folks supporting Bush because they think he’s going to spread secular democracy around the world are every bit as much suckers as the folks who voted for him in 2000 because they believed in free trade?

  15. has it occured to any of us? sure it has.

    its also occuring to me right now that i may not actually be typing this and rather that its all just the dream of a snoozing dust mite hitching a ride on the back of a pink fuzzy giant with butterfly wings.

    the reality however is that this administration has been amazingly and consistently forthright about “grand strategy”. what more do you want?

    i didnt vote for him in 2000. i will be voting for him in 2004 (barring any sudden unforseen changes). i do not agree with everything this admin has done domestically, but there has never been a candidate in my life i could fully call my own. in order for any of this debate over substance to have value, all of us – including you – must be willing to accept when this admin does what we are asking of it.

  16. Matt:

    This sounds like a refrain from the “Bush is stupid” melody. As long as the Left believes this and waits for the President to screw up, instead of advocating a serious alternative to his policies now, they will have a long, cold and dark wait in the hinterlands of American politics.

    IMO, the results so far speak of some sort of plan, as opposed to a “foreign policy of the day” lottery.

    IMO-Bush’s “Grand Strategy” is a variation of Patton’s famous line:

    (paraphrase from memory)

    “The way to win a war is not to die for your country, but to make the other poor son-of-a-bitch die for HIS country”

    preferably in his own country, and not in the US.

  17. In many ways, the Bush administration have made their case for the present war. Throughout the entire buildup to the Iraq war, the overall strategy of dealing with terrorism was discussed. Bush’s own plan to defang Arafat and insisting that Arafat or his supporters be elminated from any part in the formation of a new Palestine state indicated Bush’s own vision of the middle east.

    While the Bush adminstration need not tell the world or Americans every details of strategy, the Bush’s administration has at least discussed a long term strategy that can be gleamed by Bush’s own words since 9/11. In Bob Woodward book on the Afghan war shows that there was a debate on where to go next after the Afghan campaign.

    Bush’s foreign policy is there for the world to see. All you have to do is to read various statements by Bush’s people over the past two years.

  18. Yep, Phil’s post is right on point. Either the war on terrorism will be won overseas by taking the war to the enemy’s home; or it will be lost here at home while we dither and despair.

    Bush wants to take the war to the enemy to win; the Democrats are dithering and despairing because, well, there are all kinds of explanations. Choose your own. It’s likely to be right – the Democrats are all over the map.

    And those facts aren’t Bush’s “fault,” no matter how much the insufferable likes of Kevvy Drum may proclaim them so.

  19. “grab-bag opportunism conducted with no regard whatsoever for the long term”

    A perfect description of how FDR handled the Great Depression. Funny how it can work too.

  20. I think you guys are missing the point. Bush shouldn’t talk about this because he needs to engage the Democrats, he needs to talk about it because otherwise the American public won’t support it.

    Everyone commenting here is a news junkie and understands all the arguments. The vast majority of people don’t. (Go talk to a few ordinary folks at a PTA meeting if you don’t believe me.) They think we were in Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and that’s it. Unless Bush — and it has to be Bush — gives them a different reason, they aren’t going to want to stick it out in the Middle East. After all, Saddam is gone, so why should American boys still be risking their lives?

    Michael: it’s a shame that anyone who is skeptical of a primarily military strategy for the war on terror is “unserious.” I would say just the opposite: serious people understand how complex this problem is and how many different things need to come together for us to win. The unserious ones are the people who think that a bigger military is going to do the job.

    Sending the marines in is easy and feels good. But if you’re really serious about winning the war, you need to go far, far beyond that.

  21. The “no strategy” bit as most here have pointed out is non-sense.

    What is meant by that is that they have no strategy to offer and let us just pretend the president doesn’t either.

    The Ds are going to be out in the cold for a very long time. Lieberman gets it. Pro-war, pro-capitalism are the core values of America; the future of the left and right. National unity. The differences will be cultural not military or economic.

    The Ds are fracturing.

  22. Part of the problem is that too many people don’t understand who our enemies are.

    “War on terror” is a bad description for what we’re up to here. We are not at war against a military tactic.

    We are at war with Islamic fascists who happen to use terrorism as a military tactic when they are not in power.

    No one would say that taking out Saddam was a distraction from a war against Islamic fascists.

    I blame the Bush Administration for being vague, and I also blame anti-war liberals for not being able to figure it out for themselves, especially when Tony Blair articulates it so well.

  23. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. If most prefer to not be vigilant it is not the President’s fault.

    So far as I can tell Iraq is going well. Errors are being made and corrected. None so far are irreversable. Post war chaos is not unusual. In fact it is normal.

    Kevin is correct the problem is complex. So complex that it will depend on the honor and integrity of individual Americans rather than orders from above. If that is the case then, knowing the Marines, I’d say we and the Iraqis are in good hands.

    It is no longer a test of our military skills it is a test of our culture. We will do fine.

  24. Maybe I’m off on this one, but from what polls I’ve seen they seem to indicate that the American public is well on board with the President’s plans and understand better than most media pundits what the President is trying to do.

    The polls I’ve seen also showed that the American public understood the possibility for casualties during the Iraq freedom and the polls after the war that showed that the public wasn’t all that concerned about WMD being found. And the list goes on…

    Hence, I don’t understand Kevin’s thesis that the American people seem to need the President to babysit them and talk about “it” or “otherwise the American public won’t support it.”

    Yet the President made his case and the American people supported it. If the fear is that the American people need constant reminding and support, that’s a different issue. But the President is out there talking and talking and talking about it. This whole debate is starting to sound a lot like the “talking points memo” of secret war plans that were all too public.

    With three children in public school I’m more than a bit familiar with the PTA, and rest assured, in MY Dallas suburb the folks here understand what the President is trying to do.

  25. Kevin,

    You express the Democrats’ fantasy ideology quite well.

    The public understands what the Bush Administration is doing quite well. So do Democratic party activists. So, for that matter, does practically everybody.

    But the Democratic activists don’t like it. Worse, the public supports the Bush Administration’s goals and means in the war on terror. Democratic activists dislike that even more. This would normally be their problem but, given the absence of Democratic voices to the contrary, it is the Democratic Party’s problem bigtime too. This is why the Democratic Party is in danger of extinction.

  26. Again: Again and again Bush has articulated this vision, but because various elements agree with Kevin in not liking it, they have slipped it down the memory hole and then, in full passive-agressive mode, claimed he doesn’t have one and needs to come up with one.

    What they’re really saying is that they don’t like the one he has and will disapear it until he produces one more to their satisfaction.

    I don’t think that’s going to happen, no matter how long they hold his breath on the subject till everyone’s face turns blue.

  27. Btw, implying that the strategic vision Bush has articulated consists simply of sending in the marines in every instance is one of those straw-man mischaracterizations that we’ve come to know and loathe.

  28. kevin, part of the reason those “average” americans you are citing dont know why we went into iraq or what the broader war is about is because of that pesky media situation joe and others have pointed out. it is our job, those of us that are informed, to keep the media honest and to engage in discussion with those pta members you are talking about.

    at the same time i think this may be a case of the “how did reagan get elected? no one i know voted for reagan.” syndrome. quite a large number of average americans do understand on some instinctive level – and in more detailed informed ways – just what this is all about. they openly support what this administration is doing about it. that you are not experiencing that may have more to do with who you know than with broader trends.

    ultimately however, the bush administration will come out and explain in vigorous detail just what is going on for each and every pta member and other average american. they have done so to some degree before and will do so even more clearly in the near future. that time has not come yet because the current preoccupation is on staying out of the way while the opponents of this “grand strategy” continue to take enough rope to hang themselves with countless times over.

    right now the attention must be in iraq, doing the small critical things to make a country grow out of the baathist mess. the attention must be in doing the inspection work and gathering all of the damning information about wmd into david kay’s capable hands. the attention must be on hunting down saddam.

    in this war on terror actions will speak louder than ankle-biting. the public debate we are all addicted to will come again soon enough.

  29. Kevvy thinks Americans are idiots, like the ones he holds in contempt at his local PTA. He wishes Bush were more like Al Gore, endlessly lecturing us idiot Americans (not smart enough to vote against Bush in ’04) over and over and over again about bin Laden’s “Risky Big Terrorism Scheme.”

    Of course the war on terrorism is complex, and “many different things need to come together for us to win.” But really serious people, who aren’t interested in playing parochial partisan games, understand the first thing that needs to come together is our military strategy and capability.

    When it’s all said and done, we need to kill terrorists in their homes before they kill us in ours to win. That, the willingness to use the military unilaterally and preemptively, and the ongoing support of the American people are the necessary conditions for victory.

    Other things have been and will be useful – and we should not ignore them – but none are more important than the military means to kill terrorists; the political will to kill terrorists unilaterally and preemptively, when necessary; and the support of the American people for killing terrorists unilaterally and preemptively, when necessary. That is the baseline for winning the war. Everything else is optional.

  30. Tim,

    “Kevvy”? If he was your boyfriend or your child, that form of address would be sappy but not otherwise worthy of comment. Since he’s neither, how about some respect? I think you’re also projecting positions onto Calpundit that he may not hold, and I can say from experience that few things are more annoying.

    The rest of your post is insightful and intelligent. So what’s the damage with that first unnecessary paragraph? We have a great comments section here – let’s keep it that way, folks.

    Re: Kevin’s point that the “average American” needs to understand it, he may have something there. Yes, I do believe there’s a gut-level understanding out there. What’s missing is an articulated understanding whose message has stuck, and I agree that’s probably still in play (the Democrats are currently too extreme to get there, the Republicans might). Balagan, ironically, explains what’s going on.

    “No one I know voted for Reagan,” Balagan? OK, but don’t you see that “everyone I know groks that the Saudis are the long-term problem” may work in the Blogosphere but be a surprise beyond? Same dynamics.

    Finally, Kevin’s point that “Sending the marines in is easy and feels good. But if you’re really serious about winning the war, you need to go far, far beyond that.”

    First of all, sending in the Marines is NOT easy, Kevin. Those who seem to think it is… I wonder about them.

    Do we need to go far beyond just that option? Yes. The Democrats’ problem, and to some extent yours too, is that you seem to assume the Marines should therefore NOT be an option. Your essays suggesting that al-Qaeda is a police problem go to the heart of this issue.

    That does not logically follow. Use of the Armed Forces to win this war is a NECESSARY condition of victory when dealing with a problem of state-fomented hate and state-sponsored terror. That does not mean it is a SUFFICIENT condition. It’s the table stakes and opening hand in the poker game, without which you cannot play, but not itself a winning hand.

    Clinton tried doing without those table stakes, and accomplished less than nothing (in Woolsley’s words, it was the equivalent of a big “kick me” sign), and the end result was several thousands of Americans dead in New York. After that manifest failure, suggesting more of the same… no, that is just not seen as serious, and rightly so because it fails to grapple with many of the key questions (back to my comments in another thread).

  31. I’m pulling together a set of ‘grand strategy’ spreeches and writing from GWB and comparing them to some I’m pulling from FDR and Churchill to try and make my point concrete.

    I’d love some pointers to the array of documents that Tom and Trent and some others seem to have seen that I may have missed; we’re all making assertions of fact and it’s probably time to stop asserting and start showing some facts.

    Having said that, I’ll suggest that I certainly don’t think I’m an “anyone but Bush” liberal, and that I voted in the last election in a way that helped GWB, conscious of the fact and not unhappy that in doing so he might win.

    And I haven’t heard the strategy. Oh, I’ve seen opeds from second-tier administration figures and various influential parties that suggeest the policy (in fact, I thought enough of their work that I publicly came out for the war before the war started). But I don’t see Bush and Cheny and DeLay out stating it or selling it. So even if they have been doing it (a point which I hope we can settle with facts and links), it hasn’t gotten across to me…and believe me, my only souce of news isn’t the New York Times or the Beeb. And if I haven’t seen it…junkie that I am for this kind of stuff…the odds are that my neighbors haven’t either.

    And that the only voices they are hearing are those critical of Bush.

    And that their patience for the war – their ‘stomach’ for the bad news that must come with wars – will eventually, drop by drop, be worn away.

    I’m not saying that this is what I want to happen; I’m specifically saying it’s what I don’t want to happen, and making some concrete suggestions of what Bush should do to keep it from happening.

    So let’s go to the docs and see what’s there.


  32. “OK, but don’t you see that “everyone I know groks that the Saudis are the long-term problem” may work in the Blogosphere but be a surprise beyond? Same dynamics.”

    you are absolutely right joe, i just think this goes without saying and that the time for focusing in like a laser on everyone outside the blogosphere about this is coming soon rather than now. actually in the last few days i think there has begun to be a shift on this. the debate with the american and european (and other assorted) publics is the next big battle we are all gearing up for. lets not jump the gun and “rush to war” so to speak. the buildup period is working to our favor by allowing the antiwar crowd to expose themselves as they leap over each other to reach new extremes daily. let us ratchet up the discussion with consideration for this and remember that there is a long road ahead of us. we have to make our arguments and our victories last.

  33. Regarding A.L.’s point ” But I don’t see Bush and Cheny and DeLay out stating it or selling it. So even if they have been doing it (a point which I hope we can settle with facts and links), it hasn’t gotten across to me.”

    Notwithstanding the fact we don’t need to be beaten over the head as to why we’re at war, and what our strategy is, here are excerts from two significant speeches the president gave that are pretty clear in defining the problem and laying out America’s strategy:

    First, from his Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, Sept. 20, 2001:

    …The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics — a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam. The terrorists’ directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans, and make no distinction among military and civilians, including women and children.

    …This group and its leader — a person named Osama bin Laden — are linked to many other organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries. They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan, where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction.

    …The leadership of al Qaeda has great influence in Afghanistan and supports the Taliban regime in controlling most of that country. In Afghanistan, we see al Qaeda’s vision for the world.

    …These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. (Applause.) The Taliban must act, and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.

    …I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. (Applause.) The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them. (Applause.)

    …Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. (Applause.)

    …They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.

    …These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us, because we stand in their way.

    …We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions — by abandoning every value except the will to power — they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies. (Applause.)

    …Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command — every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war — to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.

    …This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.

    …Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. (Applause.) From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.

    …These measures are essential. But the only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows. (Applause.)

    …Many will be involved in this effort, from FBI agents to intelligence operatives to the reservists we have called to active duty. All deserve our thanks, and all have our prayers. And tonight, a few miles from the damaged Pentagon, I have a message for our military: Be ready. I’ve called the Armed Forces to alert, and there is a reason. The hour is coming when America will act, and you will make us proud. (Applause.)

    …This is not, however, just America’s fight. And what is at stake is not just America’s freedom. This is the world’s fight. This is civilization’s fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.

    …We ask every nation to join us. We will ask, and we will need, the help of police forces, intelligence services, and banking systems around the world. The United States is grateful that many nations and many international organizations have already responded — with sympathy and with support. Nations from Latin America, to Asia, to Africa, to Europe, to the Islamic world. Perhaps the NATO Charter reflects best the attitude of the world: An attack on one is an attack on all.
    …The civilized world is rallying to America’s side. They understand that if this terror goes unpunished, their own cities, their own citizens may be next. Terror, unanswered, can not only bring down buildings, it can threaten the stability of legitimate governments. And you know what — we’re not going to allow it. (Applause.)

    …Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great loss. And in our grief and anger we have found our mission and our moment. Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom — the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time — now depends on us. Our nation — this generation — will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail. (Applause.)

    …It is my hope that in the months and years ahead, life will return almost to normal. We’ll go back to our lives and routines, and that is good. Even grief recedes with time and grace. But our resolve must not pass. Each of us will remember what happened that day, and to whom it happened. We’ll remember the moment the news came — where we were and what we were doing. Some will remember an image of a fire, or a story of rescue. Some will carry memories of a face and a voice gone forever.

    …I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people.

    …The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them. (Applause.)

    …Fellow citizens, we’ll meet violence with patient justice — assured of the rightness of our cause, and confident of the victories to come. In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may He watch over the United States of America.

    The second is from the president’s speech at West Point, June 1, 2002:

    …History has also issued its call to your generation. In your last year, America was attacked by a ruthless and resourceful enemy. You graduate from this Academy in a time of war, taking your place in an American military that is powerful and is honorable. Our war on terror is only begun, but in Afghanistan it was begun well. (Applause.)

    …This war will take many turns we cannot predict. Yet I am certain of this: Wherever we carry it, the American flag will stand not only for our power, but for freedom. (Applause.) Our nation’s cause has always been larger than our nation’s defense. We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace — a peace that favors human liberty. We will defend the peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.

    …In defending the peace, we face a threat with no precedent. Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger the American people and our nation. The attacks of September the 11th required a few hundred thousand dollars in the hands of a few dozen evil and deluded men. All of the chaos and suffering they caused came at much less than the cost of a single tank. The dangers have not passed. This government and the American people are on watch, we are ready, because we know the terrorists have more money and more men and more plans.

    …The gravest danger to freedom lies at the perilous crossroads of radicalism and technology. When the spread of chemical and biological and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic missile technology — when that occurs, even weak states and small groups could attain a catastrophic power to strike great nations. Our enemies have declared this very intention, and have been caught seeking these terrible weapons. They want the capability to blackmail us, or to harm us, or to harm our friends — and we will oppose them with all our power. (Applause.)

    …For much of the last century, America’s defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence — the promise of massive retaliation against nations — means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.

    …We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. (Applause.)

    …Homeland defense and missile defense are part of stronger security, and they’re essential priorities for America. Yet the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. (Applause.) In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act. (Applause.)

    …Our security will require the best intelligence, to reveal threats hidden in caves and growing in laboratories. Our security will require modernizing domestic agencies such as the FBI, so they’re prepared to act, and act quickly, against danger. Our security will require transforming the military you will lead — a military that must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives. (Applause.)

    …The work ahead is difficult. The choices we will face are complex. We must uncover terror cells in 60 or more countries, using every tool of finance, intelligence and law enforcement. Along with our friends and allies, we must oppose proliferation and confront regimes that sponsor terror, as each case requires. Some nations need military training to fight terror, and we’ll provide it. Other nations oppose terror, but tolerate the hatred that leads to terror — and that must change. (Applause.) We will send diplomats where they are needed, and we will send you, our soldiers, where you’re needed. (Applause.)

    …America confronted imperial communism in many different ways — diplomatic, economic, and military. Yet moral clarity was essential to our victory in the Cold War. When leaders like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan refused to gloss over the brutality of tyrants, they gave hope to prisoners and dissidents and exiles, and rallied free nations to a great cause.

    …Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. (Applause.) Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities. (Applause.) Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere wrong. (Applause.) Brutality against women is always and everywhere wrong. (Applause.) There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. (Applause.) By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it. (Applause.)

    …As we defend the peace, we also have an historic opportunity to preserve the peace. We have our best chance since the rise of the nation state in the 17th century to build a world where the great powers compete in peace instead of prepare for war. The history of the last century, in particular, was dominated by a series of destructive national rivalries that left battlefields and graveyards across the Earth. Germany fought France, the Axis fought the Allies, and then the East fought the West, in proxy wars and tense standoffs, against a backdrop of nuclear Armageddon.

    …When the great powers share common values, we are better able to confront serious regional conflicts together, better able to cooperate in preventing the spread of violence or economic chaos. In the past, great power rivals took sides in difficult regional problems, making divisions deeper and more complicated. Today, from the Middle East to South Asia, we are gathering broad international coalitions to increase the pressure for peace. We must build strong and great power relations when times are good; to help manage crisis when times are bad. America needs partners to preserve the peace, and we will work with every nation that shares this noble goal. (Applause.)

    …When it comes to the common rights and needs of men and women, there is no clash of civilizations. The requirements of freedom apply fully to Africa and Latin America and the entire Islamic world. The peoples of the Islamic nations want and deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every nation. And their governments should listen to their hopes. (Applause.)

    …America has a greater objective than controlling threats and containing resentment. We will work for a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror.

    …The bicentennial class of West Point now enters this drama. With all in the United States Army, you will stand between your fellow citizens and grave danger. You will help establish a peace that allows millions around the world to live in liberty and to grow in prosperity. You will face times of calm, and times of crisis. And every test will find you prepared — because you’re the men and women of West Point. (Applause.) You leave here marked by the character of this Academy, carrying with you the highest ideals of our nation.

    So, there it is. The better question might be, how often do the American people need to be reminded why we fight?

    I’d bet not much – others here seem to think otherwise.

    Finally, regarding my addressing Mr. Drum “Kevvy,” I’ve read enough of his juvenile, smug contempt for the conservative point of view that I believe the diminution is more than fair – but out of respect for this site I will refrain from doing so in the future.

  34. In those links, since I was rushing (I’m very sleepy I’ve spent most of the day coding ubb into a file so I could post a rather hugish – over 70 pages in Word – file in another forum on another topic) – wherever I didn’t mention who was speaking, it was Bush.

    We have a great comments section here – let’s keep it that way, folks.

    Can I keep linking to Officer Barbrady wavs?

    They’re hellacool.

    Regarding the Balagan/Reagan quote; he had that in quotation marks and I assume he was referencing people who are insulated – he wasn’t saying that, he was refering to an attitude or rather a state of isolation in enclaves where no one some people know will admit to having voted for {fill in the blank}. Just a clarification on his behalf since I think you misunderstood him there.

  35. im scared. you said hella. youre from cali arent you? all my cali friends say hella. at least its not ‘wicked’. :)

    you are right about what i meant and thanks for making it clear in case anyone else didnt pick up on it. whether joe misunderstood or not, i do agree with him that the enclave mentality can apply to the blogosphere as well. i just dont think its the case that the american public is as uninformed as some like kevin would suggest. i think that in this goldilocks and the three bears discussion over whether the administration is informing the public too much or not at all, the reality settles in between as somewhat approximating “just right”. that mix of direct public engagement and holding back while the antiwar arguments overextend themselves happens to be what i support as the best approach to the question as well.

  36. Belagan wrote:

    im scared. you said hella. youre from cali arent you? all my cali friends say hella. at least its not ‘wicked’. :)

    No, I was just continuing the Barbrady-related theme. (You can always respond with “quit saying ‘hella’, Cartman!”)

  37. sadly i havent watched south park in quite a long time. havent had cable tv for the last year and a half. must make sure to budget some time for a cartoon downloading spree sometime soon.

  38. I find the use of FDR as an example of A.L.’s point quite bizarre. FDR is the example of dishonesty and concealment of strategic goals, not disclosure of them. FDR had several strategic goals in WWII that he never shared with the American public, including the undermining of the British colonial empire. In fact, “unconditional surrender” was sprung by surprise on the American public and our allies. FDR intentionally lied about his plans for America’s entry into WWII itself.

  39. There’s an interesting book, btw, by self-described “Truman Democrat” Thomas Flemming, The New Dealer’s War: FDR and the War Within WW II that discusses some of the differences within FDR’s Administration and how FDR often let various people think what they wanted with regards to whether he supported their view of what our strategic goals should be or not (for example, the split between “progressives” such as Wallace on the one hand and others on the other side, how he treated Churchill (something Brits are more aware of than we are; ask my British friend about it sometime), and the like.

    Here’s a booknotes cybercast on the book.

    I don’t agree with Fleming on some of his conclusions; for example, I do not believe that the policy of unconditional surrender was harmful or prolonged the war unecessarily.

    But it’s worth examining and comparing with any assertions to the effect that FDR handled things smoothly throughout when it came to conveying things.

  40. Robin:

    I think the interest in FDR is several-fold:

    1. FDR was probably the last Democrat to enunciate a clear grand strategy (however incomplete an enunciation);
    2. The Second World War was the closest thing to a national event, sparked by a surprise attack, as 9-11.
    3. FDR is often held up by the Left in particular but liberals in general as an example of dealing with the public (take that as you will).

    As you note, FDR did not, in fact, talk squarely w/ the American people about war. You don’t have to go as far as Fleming to realize that, even as FDR was promising American mothers that their sons would not go to war, he was also taking steps to directly put American forces in harm’s way (such as the Kearney, Reuben James, CHOP line, etc.).

    Mind you, I happen to AGREE w/ what he did—I think that it was important to confront and stop Nazi Germany. The scary part is the number of folks from the Left side of the spectrum for whom this is all news. When I was in grad school, that included professors who had NO IDEA what I was talking about…..

  41. IMO where Fleming has his point is the degree to which FDR really let some of these things drift on occasion, himself; what our goals were *wasn’t* all that cut and dried, at least within the administration (there were “progressives” on one hand and “realists” on the other, to put it crudely, with different visions of what our ultimate goals should be and what should be carried out).

    As far as articulating such a vision, though, I’ll point out again what I have elsewhere: it wasn’t all on FDR, nor was it expected to be.

    Frank Capra was making the “Why We Fight” series, which articulated to the American public (who went to movies rather than watching the invented but largely unavailable Telivision) our aims, including what A.L. would call uprooting the Fantasy Ideologies of Germany and Japan. A far cry from producing “Buffalo Soldiers” or “Fahrenheit 9/11″, or making the sort of disparaging remarks about the effort as Scorsese
    and others have.

    For years and years Liberals used to sneer in contempt at Ronald Reagan’s contribution – I know, because I’m ashamed to have been one of them – but how many of today’s Holliwood set, including those that had such contempt for Reagan, have done half as much – at least in a positive sense? During WWII, stars stumped across America and indeed the world on behalf of the war effort, not against it as today. One of the people who did so then (and throughout his life) passed away today, and leaves a void that will not be filled.

    Today’s Edward R. Murrow is Peter Arnett. Back then, though there was some criticism, media, the literary community, academe (from grade school to college), and intelligencia were assisting in explaining our war aims in a positive sense, not misrepresenting them and insisting there were dark motives behind them.

    Today, the reverse is the case; it’s the assertively pro-American victory crowd that is on the margins of communication.

    FDR did not, contra the implication A.L. is trying to make in his comparison, handle everything perfectly; but FDR had a lot of people to help fill in whatever cracks there were, rather than go after them with a hammer and chisel to widen the fisures (to the point of misrepresentation and falsification).

    This is the kind of thing I mean when I talk about the state our cultural institutions are in and the affect they’re having on our efforts. It’s what I mean when I say that we’re materielly stronger in every way than our predicessors (including my Grandfather, who fought as a member of the 17th Airborne Division in WWII) were, but spiritually worse and being undermined from within rather than shored up by these institutions.

  42. FDR was probably the last Democrat to enunciate a clear grand strategy

    What about Truman on the Cold War or JFK later?

    IMO the problem is that that is where the line ends and the break is really sharply defined.

  43. Porphry, Pophyro,



    Truman’s grand strategy was not publicly announced, at least not in an Atlantic Charter kind of way. NSC-68 was classified for quite some time, iirc. The Truman Doctrine (sending US forces to help counter Communism) was arguably no better an enunciation, and probably worse, than Dubya’s SOTU’s. Similarly, the Carter Doctrine, that we would use “any means necessary” to keep the oil lanes open, might be grand tactics, or a marker on the map, but it was hardly a grand strategic statement.

    As for JFK, while it made great speechifyin’ to say “We will bear any burden, support any friend, oppose any foe,” it was also not much of a grand strategy.

    One aspect of such a strategy is the need to provide some kind of guideline about the inevitable mismatch between ends and means. To support ANY friend, oppose ANY foe is rhetoric, but not strategy. In the end, we did not support any friend—in some cases we cut deals, such as Laos, in others we deposed the leaders, such as Ngo or (possibly) Lumumba, and in some cases we recoiled at the possible price (Cuba—Bay of Pigs).

    So, for some kind of official strategy, post-December 7th (and even a little before), FDR, I’d suggest, was STILL the last Dem to enunciate a clear one.

    My opinion….

  44. FDR’s duplicity 1940-41 is the single best example of why Steve den Beste, Trent and Tim are right about the need for secrecy. FDR had the further handicap that public opinion wasn’t with him (the British bought favorable public opinion polls from the Gallup organization, etc.), not merely that he was dealing with a dishonest opposition. I have major issues with Fleming’s book but its opening, about the intentional leaking of War Plan Rainbow Five, and Wedermeyer’s Victory Program, to his enemies at the Chicago Tribune just before Pearl Harbor, knowing that Japanese attack was imminent, is hilarious and worth the price of the book.

    Also keep in mind that FDR did not have a plan. A.L. and others here are charminingly clueless as to how national policy is really formulated. The Bush Administration has been a marvel of organization, speed, forthrightness and foresight in devising the truly far-reaching current National Security Strategy. Few lacking experience at national policy levels have any idea how supremely competent Condoleezza Rice is.

    Complaints about the Bush Administration not doing an effective job of creating security policy, and selling it to the public, are not merely wrong, but ludicrous given the historic record.

    House Majority Leader Tom DeLay made the understatement of the year in saying that the Democratic Party is not serious on this issue. What is really going on is that Trent Telenko is dead on in stating that the Democrats are on some other planet when it comes to 9/11 and war. They just do not understand the concepts. Everything they say and do is rooted in a fantasy ideology which John Fonte best decribed as “transnational progressivism.” See:


  45. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was being “politically correct” in his understatement, Tom.

    And he was all the more damning of the Democrats for it.

    This will be the subject of a post of mine in the near future.

  46. Dean:

    “Porphy” is the most common abrev, though “Porph” is catching up.

    As for Truman: that may be true in a technical sense, but as many have pointed out regarding Bush’s, the Truman Doctrine was widely understood even if the key document was kept secret. This is why the “Progressive” Left split in ’48 – the biggest reason, anyhow – and why Truman has been a figure of demonization by the Left ever since.

    IMO similar with the real JFK, rather than the JFK that some on the Left had tried to substitute for the real one of history, since, due to his martyr status, they cannot assault him as directly.

    IMO, their visions were articulated as well as Bush’s; the key difference is that the institutions that transmit information to the American public are very. . .different now.

    By the way, today moderate Democrats came out to warn Democrats not to move too far Left, lest they suffer in ’04. See this article. . .Hmmmmn. . .what is missing in this critique, though. . .something. Some topic isn’t mentioned as one not to drift too far Left on. . .I wonder what it is. . .oh, wait; there it is, alluded to indirectly very briefly at the end of the piece.

  47. Tom:

    “FDR’s duplicity 1940-41 is the single best example of why Steve den Beste, Trent and Tim are right about the need for secrecy.” Tom, last time I checked, we weren’t yet at war in 1940, although Roosevelt felt that we should be and doubtless soon would be.

    Once the troops start dying, the game changes. Had Bush (or Clinton) been as duplicitous as FDR in the runup to 9/11 (I’ll exclude the assertions that he ‘knew’ about Pearl Harbor in advance), I’d have no argument. But FDR had a clear point to make about the Axis powers in WWII, and he made our objectives clear – unconditional surrender. By making them so clear, and by setting the bar high – as well as by making sure that the home front was engaged in direct support of the war (which served obvious practical as well as psychological needs) – FDR set a framework within which sacrifices were shared and made sense.

    “Also keep in mind that FDR did not have a plan. A.L. and others here are charminingly clueless as to how national policy is really formulated.” You’re right, Tom. None of us are qualified to opine on this except ten or fifteen people who work for the NSC and one or two who work for State. So the rest of us should just sit back and enjoy the ride, right? More seriously, that’s an insulting and incorrect assertion. It happens that I do know fairly well from personal experience how policy gets set at the state and national level, and I also have a pretty good handle on how policies succeed and how they fail.

    They fail, in large part, because of a strong disconnect between the willingness to spend – money, effort, political capital – and what they really cost.

    Bush has made two good speeches – SOTU 01 and the West Point speech – both of which were well-covered. I’ve read the National Security Policy, and short of surrendering to the Arabs, can devise an almost infinite array of policies – a set of ‘Grand Strategies’ – from it. Which suggests that it’s a well-written policy document.

    But Bush needs to lay the groundwork for what we’re really doing – remaking the Arab world through a combination of military force and diplomacy – and what it will cost us. He needs to be engaging all of us in sharing those costs (through environmental relaxation combined with disincentives to remain dependent on ME oil), and making sure that the political will to finish this fight is there.

    I’ll post more extensively on this in the next day or so.


  48. 1) When I’ve been refering to FDR, I concentrate mainly on the course of the war rather than the run up to it.

    2) “Unconditional Surrender” is a condition; it is not a Grand Strategy. Bush has invoked things along those lines, and his formula of ending “terrorisim with a global reach” and regimes that “sponsor, harbor, or fund [insert Saud quip here] terrorist organizations”. However, me bringing that up will lead to a response that this is not quite a Grand Strategy itself.

    Neither is “Unconditional Surrender” a Grand Strategy. Should FDR have made clear what his was? Make it emphatically clear from the start that we would have a “Europe First” strategy?

    What about the elements of the strategy that were a matter of internal debate? Should they have wrapped up such debate as quickly as possible so that they would be able to present to the people at the earliest possible moment their strategy for prosecuting the war?

    A Grand Strategy isn’t simply the statement of the goal – it is the means of achieving said goal. Bush and others in his Administration have fairly clearly outlined the various strategies they will pursue to achieve the stated goal.

    There were disagreements, within the Administration, over the best means to prosecute the war and also what post-war policy should be towards Germany and Japan, and the extent of cooperation with certain allies, and the like. Some of this wasn’t sorted out till fairly late and some of it not by FDR at all but by his successor (especially in regard to how to deal with the defeated parties, which was a key element in any Grand Strategy then and is the closest analogy to what you’re looking for here, in what to encourage and discourage and foster or minimize).

    3) “what they will really cost” – Did FDR know when WWII started what it would really cost and lay that out in great detail for the American people? Or did he, like Bush has, say that the cost would be high but worth paying, the war long and hard but we must be persistent, that there would be setbacks on the road to victory but in the end we would prevail?

    The fact is, here you are setting an unmeetable standard – “a standard set sufficiently high cannot be met by anyone”. The simple fact is, no one can possibly know now how much it will cost – especially if one agrees with the assertion made by Bush that this effort will carry on through several administrations. How can we foresee what the true costs will be? Could anyone reasonably predict with extreme accuracy what the campaign in Iraq would cost? The invasion itself cost significantly less than planned for, but the occupation is costing more (in cash; in lives, as I’ve mentioned, I always figured the post-war would be more dangerous).

    What if there is an attack against us that none of us – including Bush – can reasonably be expected to forsee, and so it isn’t included in “what this will cost us”? This sounds like another case of “heads, Bush’s critics win; Tails, Bush loses” – he can be damned for not presenting us with the cost and then if it turns out that such estimates as he does try to provide prove to miss the mark, damned for that. I don’t think you’re setting up a trap deliberately, but I do think that the expectation is unreasonable.

    If you can show me where FDR outlined what WWII would cost in lives, treasure, and time and presented the estimates to the public, then I’ll withdraw the criticism. If you simply point to general statements about how we will have to expect there to be losses, a few examples, and the reminder that the alternative is worse, then Bush doesn’t really compare unfavorably to FDR here.

    Also, what you’re really saying in pointing out that in your opinion Bush has given the good statements that he did on this subject, you’re pointing to things he did *early* on; thus not something he neglected to do or put off. IMO these things have been reiterated periodically, if in capsule form – however, FDR did not re-explain everything at full length at every turn, either; although, I guess if you count “Unconditional Surrender” as the Grand Strategy, perhaps he did, but that formula is pithy and I’m sure as you yourself would explain, the Grand Strategy we’re employing here and now goes far beyond Unconditional Surrender alone.

  49. A.L. the United States had been engaged in WWII for over a year when FDR announced – contrary to the wishes of at least one ally – the “policy” of unconditional surrender. Further, the true audience of the announcement was the Soviet Union.

  50. A.L.

    You are setting yourself up to look the fool.
    Tom is a amateur historian when it comes to WW2 strategy and decision making and is a war gaming grognard besides. (Hells bells, Tom was a play tester for Jim Dunnigan 25 years ago.) I have seen Tom’s home library and lust after many of the military and political history books he has there.

    When the GENIE on-line service was still going (1996?), he started an April fool’s topic on the Science Fiction Round Table on how people there would change future history if they were dropped, as is, into 1 April 1936.

    He and I have been gaming that “thought experiment” on and off since then. Exactly how FDR was wired, why he did what he did, what the motives of the players and American institutions involved were, and how to manipulate the American political-military political system to help America win the war faster, has been central to the thought experiment.

    This also leaves aside the fact he was actively recruited in college by the CIA for accurately calling the date of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia as well as saying we were losing Vietnam and the reasons why.

  51. Ah, Trent, the good ol’ days of Steve Cole’s mil forum on GEnie. ( Hmmm, was GEnie still operating as late as ’96? My memory is getting weak. ).

  52. “But Bush needs to lay the groundwork for what we’re really doing – remaking the Arab world through a combination of military force and diplomacy – and what it will cost us. He needs to be engaging all of us in sharing those costs (through environmental relaxation combined with disincentives to remain dependent on ME oil), and making sure that the political will to finish this fight is there.”

    I don’t think any politician, Left, Right or center, could thread that needle. In fact, it would be a monumental, historic blunder. Why? Let’s count the reasons:

    1) Stating official U.S. policy for “remaking the Arab world through a combination of military force and diplomacy” will cost us any alliances with all moderate Arab nations who don’t think (at least publicly) they need “remaking.” It will only push them to opposing us if only to keep the militant Islamic fascists (who are the core problem) insurgencies at bay. You think they hate us now? Just wait until we tell them, as a matter of policy, they are failures and we’re gonna fix them. Contrast your proposal with with recent actions in the Middle East by Syria and Iran, now that we have troops on their respective borders.

    2) The Europeans and the other nations of the U.N. would great such a display of U.S. cultural and political imperialism with anything but open arms. If you thought the UN debate over enforcing UNSC Res. 1441 was exceedingly difficult, just wait until we tell the Euro’s and UN were basically taking receivership of the Arab Middle East. Buckle in and put on your helmet – the ride would be much rougher. Besides which, do beleive anyone (in the Middle East or in the UN) would actually let us do this, short of taking individual nations over? Look how hard it was just to get the UN to lift the sanctions on the defunct Saddam regime.

    3) What it will cost us? There are significant strains of isolationism on both sides of the political spectrum, albeit for different reasons, and with different degrees of merit. It is very likely such an effort to fund “nation-building” would be opposed by a coalition of left/right isolationists sufficient to carry the day. A majority of Americans will support significant expenditures for the military – “nation-building” done under the guise of a military operation to secure our freedom (like Iraq, congressional Democrats notwithstanding). Just ask yourself who is the biggest proponent of “nation-building” in the U.S. today, or who could make the most compelling case? Do you really think that politician could sell this deal to the American people and shepherd it through Congress?

    4) Because the extraordinary difficulty of even embarking on such program precludes it ever happening, the issue of “sharing those costs” (through environmental relaxation combined with disincentives to remain dependent on ME oil)” I think is a non-starter, as it relates to the war on terrorism. However, to engage your point more fully, I think we have long passed the point of having a rational discussion about energy use, supply and its effects upon national security. Taking the opportunity provided by the war on terrorism to have this discussion would be more than appropriate – but that would require a degree of honesty I’m not sure many players would bring to the table. The politics of energy are just about as polarized (poisoned?) as any issue in the U.S. today; and I’m not sure how we fix that. But, returning to the specific issue of “sharing those costs,” I’m not sure the Administration has not concluded that it can win the war on terrorism without significantly changing our dependence upon foreign oil. After all, the Russians are eager to develop and sell us their oil; I have no doubt the Iraqis will want (or be required, for a short time anyway) to sell us their oil; both reduce dependence upon Saudi oil, (which I’ll assume might be your real concern?)

    This brings me to what seems to be your inherently illogical your prescription. As I understand your assessment: We are to engage ourselves further in the internal affairs of Arab nations to remake them through military and diplomatic means, spending what is necessary; but we are to find ways to lesson our dependency upon Middle Eastern oil. While these are not contradictory goals, they would have contradictory outcomes.

    It seems counter-productive to have a strategy in place that would simultaneously deepen our involvement in internal Arab affairs while at the same time limiting our economic involvement (and I seem to recall that bin Laden’s primary complaint with the U.S. was its military presence in Saudi Arabia; not that we bought Saudi oil). I’m not sure how you square that circle. And while I am no oil man, I do know if you reduce oil sales in the middle eastern economic equation, you pretty much impoverish those economies.

    Not wishing to address issues of income equity within Arab nations as a side issue, but dependency is a two-way street. True, they have leverage over us with oil; but we have leverage over them with cash for oil. OPEC is failing; we have more sellers available to us; they have a diminishing number of buyers (as Russia and China develop enough supplies for their own needs). I would agree (if this might be a point you’d raise) that in the long run one such goal of this project would be to foster non-oil related economic growth for Arab nations. That would take time; presumably longer than it would take us to lessen our dependency upon Middle Eastern oil, find new sources or enact more stringent conservation measures.

    In the end, the American people will support the war on terrorism as long as they believe there is a threat to their nation and to their safety. They get it – and they do not need constant lectures. The necessary conditions for success in the war on terrorism require a military capable of defeating the enemy in his home; and the political will for using the military, unilaterally and preemptively, if necessary. Other issues and other approaches should and will be engaged, if only to make full use of all of the tools available to us. The American people are up for the fight – but they are not up for a fifteen-point policy program ginned up the Kennedy school of government. They know the last time we fought a war led and designed by those people, it in ended in April of 1975 with the fall of Saigon. No thanks.

  53. Trent –

    How can I compete with that background as a historian and a wargamer?? All I’ve ever done is write legislation and administrative policy, and serve as a policy consultant on a couple of state and federal campaigns…

    …more seriously, I do respect knowledge of history, and I’m looking forward to hearing some and learning from it.

    Meanwhile, let’s dig up some speeches.


  54. Tim:

    You’re absolutely right that this requires threading a needle; and that an overblunt statement (as mine was) would doubtless raise the level of opposition abroad.

    The problem is that without something as an expressed ‘grand strategy’, the odds of keeping domestic support high enough to bear the real costs of this effort is vanishingly low.

    In no small part, this is because of the strength of the forces of Bad Philosophy that I’ve blogged ad nauseum; it’s also because of the increasingly ‘take-no-prisoners’ nature of our political process (ditto), and because in parallel ot these (and in part caused by them) the level of ‘broad social support’ for this kind of an effort is fragile (as discussed by Porphy).

    Which leaves us with a far worse scenario: one in which we start the strategy, and then walk away. In my mind, this is the worst possible outcome.

    It’s a brutally tough problem. But it is the critical problem that we face in the intermediate term.


  55. I am having trouble identifying the issue.

    Does W need to articulate Tim’s 1-4 above in so many words? Aren’t the second and third tier people already doing that? Are these State secrets?

    Our allies already know that the points mentioned in 1-4 constitute our strategy. Some may have genuine doubts about the wisdom of that strategy. Others may simply be stuck in the mid-1930s whereas the rest of us have already seen the annexation of Sudentenland or even the invasion of Poland.

    It seems to me that the administration’s problem is less a problem of forthrightness than of persuasion and diplomacy with perhaps a difficult audience, but that audience is pretty much a given. That is more of a “meta” communication problem than coming right out and saying “all your bases are belong to us”.

    Like the good cross-generational cartoonist, both the kids and the adults get it at their respective levels. Hopefully, they also find it funny.

  56. A.L.,

    “The problem is that without something as an expressed ‘grand strategy’, the odds of keeping domestic support high enough to bear the real costs of this effort is vanishingly low.

    In no small part, this is because of the strength of the forces of Bad Philosophy that I’ve blogged ad nauseum; it’s also because of the increasingly ‘take-no-prisoners’ nature of our political process (ditto), and because in parallel ot these (and in part caused by them) the level of ‘broad social support’ for this kind of an effort is fragile (as discussed by Porphy).”

    Logically your point is sound; but I’m not inclined to agree with the assumption that “the level of ‘broad social support’ for this kind of an effort is fragile” – if by that you mean the war in general. As for the “real costs,” I’m not so sure either, as that depends upon what you think the “real costs” are. Regardless, it’s my observation that the American people are often willing to support projects once engaged that they might never have agreed to if presented with what it fully entailed (as if anything like that was fully predictable in the first place). It seems to me our history suggests we make a collective decision to do something because we find it necessary, even if we do not fully understand all that is involved, and stick with it as long as we are making progress.

    Recent examples might be the Korean and Vietnamese Wars. In Korea it was clear shortly after China entered the war that we weren’t willing to defeat China – so the impulse to finish the war became the primary goal, rather than winning. In Vietnam, the tide did not turn until it became “clear” that political and military leadership were misrepresenting the facts on the ground and it did not appear we could win. Even then it took five years for Nixon to extricate the U.S. from Vietnam. Americans were patient, whacking the peace candidate, McGovern, hard in the ’72 election. I think the general pragmatism of the American people to see this through, as long as we are making progress, is really beyond doubt.

    But there is a practical, near-term correction too. I generally think, absent some new issue, the upcoming 2004 elections will very likely punish and marginalize the proponents of “Bad Philosophy” – and more importantly – the irresponsible wing of the Democratic Party for their position/opposition to the war.

    And, since cynicism is rarely a completely useless tool for political analysis, the Clintons’ relative silence in these matters leads me to conclude they do too. While none of us are privy to Senator Clinton’s ambitions, it does seem obvious that her prospects are much better if the Democrats are off the tracks in ’04 – which then allows for their (in)famous triangulation in ’08.

    While time will tell, I maintain my faith in the American people supporting the war as long as progress is made, and in this Administration’s ability to continue making progress in waging it.

    See you around.

  57. both reduce dependence upon Saudi oil

    First off, we’re proceeding from a misaprehension of economics, in a way, or at least a number of people are. Tim actually phrases this the correct way – because the U.S. isn’t all that directly dependent on Middle Eastern oil, and in particular not from Saudi Arabia – other countries (Europe, Japan, &tc) get their supply from the Middle East to a greater degree than we do.

    But we’re impacted because the price of oil is set internationally – so it wouldn’t matter if we got zero oil from the Middle East we would still be affected by supply fluctuations, “dependent” in that sense, as long as the world supply of oil doesn’t change and we disproportionately base our energy production on oil and gas because means that other countries are able to use to generate energy here remain politically taboo in America; France and Japan can supply much of their electricity needs safely via a method we haven’t been able to do much with for over twenty years.

    Again though on this score it wouldn’t be accurate to say the Bush Administration has ignored the issue.

    1) They have pressed insofar as possible to increase the supply of oil by opening domestic fields to production. Tim’s argument is proven on this score, since these efforts have been thwarted and to the degree that the Administration & Congressional Republicans have tied this to security and the War, the usual suspects have scoffed and continued to cater to the special interests they depend upon.

    2) Announced increased R&D efforts in technologies that can substitute for oil on a scale that would make a real difference rather than a cosmetic or trivial one (electric cars are largely cosmetic and are endoursed by people who think electrical energy is produced by elctrical sockets; hybrid gas-electric is somewhat better but only goes so far); in particular, fuel cells. However, here it will run up against our inability to build nuclear generators.

    3) Find and develop new sources of supply world wide; this goes beyond Russia (though Russian oil is part of that), to efforts to develop fields in Africa and elsewhere.They are having some progress on this because the usual suspects aren’t able to block this and even more pointedly aren’t as incensed about it (which is revealing, since from an environmental standpoint the oil fields we have in the States generally produce less pollution than those in third-world nations, but the emphasis of opposition shows, once again, that the priorities motivating the opponents are at least slightly different from what they claim).

    The Administration has a non-trivial strategy on this score. But, if the uproar over the Administration’s energy policy documents (I can retrieve the links to *those*, too, if you need me to) and statements are anything to go by, asking and expecting the Administration to engage in a head-on confrontation on this issue is asking them to commit political Seppuku.

    Perhaps Bush *should* kamakazi, and I’m not being sarcastic. The problem is the situation we’re in amounts to a Catch-22 – though, again, IMO the onus for the situation is not to be placed at Bush’s feet or even, for the greater part, the feet of the wing of the political spectrum he’s on, but on the other side.

    But the Catch-22 is that we cannot deal with these things in the manner they need to be dealt with because of the – I’m going to resort to R. Emmett Tyrell’s term for it, for lack of a better one – Kultursmog that precludes engaging these issues in the way we need to.

    But for that to be broken, someone will have to confront it head on. IMO the people who could most effectively do that would be the remnants of the pre-New Left Liberal tradition (the one represented by A.L. and some others here but is not the predominant wing). If Bush does it, he’s going to be destroyed politically (why this is I can explain if I need to, though it will require some length), regardless how skilled he is in “threading the needle” – the best he will be able to do is blow a door open that can eventually be walked through by someone else (after one or two terms of misrule by whomever defeats Bush as a result of his breaking the taboos that A.L. wants him to and which, in the end, we all feel need to be broken by *someone*, preferably sooner rather than later).

    If Bush really starts directly, rather than obliquely, confronting all the things that we all feel need to be confronted, he’s definately not going to be re-elected and will certainly be villified by the institutions that create the context of debate and decide how to slant who the Angels and Devils are in any fractious clash of opposing visions.

    IMO, there are *possible* reasons why he *might* want to carry on obliquely for another year+, at least from his point of view; after that, re-election is not a issue either way, at least for him personally; perhaps then he’ll be more willing to be boldly confrontational on these subjects and may be able to maneuver the usual suspects into taking the fall for a “poisoned political atmosphere” in how they wage the ’04 campaign. It’s *possible* this is the case – I don’t assert that it is and it would have to be a matter of trust or faith to believe that this is how it would play out. I am aware of counter-arguments (a lot of these issues seem to be things that Bush naturally prefers to avoid, and his administration *does* have a penchant for holding its cards close to its vest hell or high water); however, if past experience is any guide, there are reasonable reasons for thinking the Administration will maneuver opponents into clearly opening these issues for him, taking the fall for it or at least deflecting to some degree the blame that otherwise would land on him, and then comming out with a major effort to sell a bold policy; this is aproximately what has happened several times over the last several years, the most obvious example being when the opponents were maneuvered into insisting on having a Congressional debate and vote on Iraq and then getting one in a way that left them at a disadvantage and Bush holding the high cards. This type of strategy can be characterized as manipulating events – but, in all these cases Bush always has past policy statements he is able to remind people of (including the people who want to forget but opposed them at the time they were issued) and is able to say that they are simply strongly asserting policies they have always supported, explaining them and defending them against the critics who wanted a debate on these issues.

    One thing that this also highlights and is underemphasized here is that timing matters too. Right now might be the perfect time for all this. In some ways I’m taking the above position strongly, but I also – as I’ve mentioned a couple times – think that Bush really *should* be more pro-active in speaking directly to the American people to assert and highlight his policys and rationales (strategy, grand and otherwise) rather than letting things go on as they are. This would mean demanding time from the networks in the evening rather than giving speaches or statements and expecting they’ll be fairly covered.

    Twenty Years Ago Next Year

    There’s a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it is vicious and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who is right, isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear. . .

  58. Yep, there was a bear. We got stronger and smarter than the bear, even though lots thought that doing so would antagonize the bear, and how bad could it be living with the bear anyway? He was just misunderstood. But then the bear died – he couldn’t keep up with us – and seventy years of cancer didn’t help the bear much either. And no one who lived in the bear’s neighborhood was sorry to see him die.

    And now those who told us the bear wasn’t so bad are telling us the scimitar used in jihad isn’t so bad either. How bad can it be living with a scimitar waving Jihadi anyway? He is just misunderstood…

  59. On Threading the Needle

    First let it be remembered that A.L. also wants Bush to do more diplomatically to win and keep support and at least tamp down opposition in the “World Community” (the scare quotes there are not aimed at A.L.; I always put that imaginary phantasm believed in by some Fantasy Ideologies in quotes).

    It must be recognized that the imperitives of these diplomatic efforts are directly at odds with a very assertive and strong rhetorical campaing on the Grand Strategy that we around here favor.

    IMO, Gabriel is on point – IMO, it can even be said that Bush *is* threading, or attempting to thread, this needle; outlining our aimes and strategy in a way designed to be least harmful to diplomatic efforts.

    Gabriel is right to this extent. However, in my opinion the problem is not so much that of persuading a difficult audience or not, at least when it comes to certain foreign and segments of the domestic audience.

    Some things cannot be bridged by any amount of persuasion, soothing words, and not even the most gifted Chrysostom – golden-mouth – can overcome all differences if the viewpoints and interests diverge strongly enough. Sometimes the best can be hoped for is to minimize the damage these conflicting aims and goals do to your efforts to achieve yours.

    Not even the Exalted St. Clinton, Patron Saint of Persuasive Diplomacy, of sacred memory, was able to bridge these or triangulate them away, and the divergence grew over the years not because, IMO, of failed diplomacy but because perspectives on real interests diverged.

    Certainly it’s known in those quarters what our Big Picture Goals are, at least in the Middle East – but where folks like us here see that as a Good Thing, others see and are Not Amused and would be less so with a more explicit outline such as A.L. is suggesting is necessary, while also asserting we need to be more successful diplomatically.

    Indeed, to the extent to which diplomacy matters, the folks we’re talking about here, both foreign and domestic, are more turned off rather than brought around by the more straightforward way of putting things.

    So one does thread the needle, attempting to reconcile as best as one can two clashing imperitives. Sure, perhaps this could be done better. But lets remember where this debate started;

  60. First with an assertion that Bush lacked a Grand Strategy.
  61. Then with a “perception” that he lacked one.
  62. Now with the assertion that he needs to thread the needle to minimize or eliminate diplomatic costs of such a strategy while still conveying what it is.

    I think what we’ve done in this discussion is come in a circle to where Bush actually is. I think, furthermore, that to the degree to which this is not conveyed convincingly to the American public it is for the reasons I have been stating:

  63. One of the “difficult audiences” that is hostile to the sort of Grand Strategy that we support pursuing has control over most – though not all – of the institutions that convey information.
  64. Bush needs to go around, above, and beyond them to insure that what his policies and positions really are get communicated accurately, rather than through the distorting mirror of those hostile to him.
    But even when doing that, he will continue to have to “thread the needle” in ways that not only convey this vison but also keep diplomatic options as open as possible, since diplomatic support is one of the tools we need to advance our goals and is a method preffered over “sending in the Marines” (as “easy” as that is) all the time.

    Certain countries *aren’t* going to be our allies in this to the degree that we, as I think we must, take the lead rather than allowing the institutions of the “World Community” to direct things. The best that “threading the needle” will do is keep their opposition passive rather than active and insure at least some degree of cooperation on some “fronts” – as it has.

    The danger is certainly that our ability to stick it through will be undermined, but again I differ with Armed Liberal in that I do not think this will be a consequence of Bush’s failure to lay out a Grand Strategy but rather the opposition of certain influential forces in our civilization to any robustly assertive defense of it. In this regard, Bush’s failure isn’t one of laying out a Grand Strategy in the external war but in failing to decisively confront these forces and engage the intellectual battle at home over Why We Fight and why what we’re fighting for is worth preserving, rather than the single greatest source of problems, injustice, and tyranny (&tc &tc) in the world.

    IMO, if he were to give a major speech tommorrow, it would be to confront and rebutt the critics – which would to some degree include restating our aims (as Cheney did in part at AEI last week), but the main emphasis would be to engage in the debate on these things and go after the underlaying assumptions lurking behind and driving much of the opposition. To truly Bring the War on Bad Philosophy Home; the other side is waging it against us. If it’s time for any bold new statement, it’s time for this.
  65. Porphy –

    No, I don’t have a misapprehension about economics; the ME and North Africa contain over two-thirds of the world’s proven reserves, and we’re even more dependent on their oil because it is ‘sweet light’ crude. That’s why we sell Prudhoe oil to Japan, and import Saudi oil to the West Coast.

    I don’t disagree with Bush’s supply-side efforts; I’m even willing to explore for more oil in the Arctic reverves. But it’d be nice that matched with some focus on conservation and alternate sources – yes, even nuclear.


  66. >How can I compete with that background as a
    >historian and a wargamer?? All I’ve ever done is
    >write legislation and administrative policy, and
    >serve as a policy consultant on a couple of
    >state and federal campaigns…

    You don’t know how much my wince from that statement hurt.

    That background has as much to do with the formulation and execution of national strategy as my background in military procurement, namely, very little to none.

    The net assessment of national security requirements and its translation into grand strategy is a highly specialized field of academic study who best practitioners are currently working on or are consultants for the National Security Council and the Department of Defense.

  67. i think what keeps getting lost in this is the difference between military strategy and political strategy. it seems there are those here that want one to dictate the other (which one depends on the side of the argument). some of us however would rather they go hand in hand, without being backed into a corner as a nation into what we can and cant do.

    i dont really think there is such a big problem with how things are going right now. they are dynamic and fluid. the ball is in play right now so to speak and it will remain so for a while.

    both sides which wish to set our approach in stone are wrong as far as i am concerned. being light on our feet and adaptable both militarily *and* politically is worth much more than that. so neither world war 2 style secretive military tactics nor barnstorming the populace to convince all the naysayers should be enshrined as our grand national strategy.

    if we are going to be guided by any overall strategy let it be nimble and lethal rather than static and limited.

    other than my most recent 2 cents on this, i think we should be careful not to navel gaze over this too much. there is still a war on around us. there is still life. they are calling for us and we may be arguing with each other over a strategy which is already taking care of itself.

  68. I wonder if this, from yesterday also doesn’t count:

    And our current mission in Iraq is essential to the broader war on terror, it’s essential to the security of the American people. You see, a free, democratic, peaceful Iraq will not threaten America or our friends with weapons; a free Iraq will not be a training ground for terrorists, or a funnel of money to terrorists, or provide weapons to terrorists who would willingly use them to strike our country; a free Iraq will not destabilize the Middle East. A free Iraq can set a hopeful example to the entire region and lead other nations to choose freedom. And as the pursuits of freedom replace hatred and resentment and terror in the Middle East, the American people will be more secure.

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