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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

rhetorical flourishes « Previous | |Next »
June 27, 2005

The Bush administration usually puts on a good rhetorical show around foreign policy. It's central theme is that it has a manifest destiny to bring democracy and freedom to the rest of the world. It then lectures the Arab states in the Middle East about how bad they are, and how they need to fundamentally lift their game.


The continuing military occupation of Iraq, Washington's unwillingness to win greater concessions from Israel on the West Bank settlements, the ugly practices of Abu Ghraib and the incarceration of Muslims at Guantanamo Bay undercuts the message.

This feeds the deep anti-US resentment in the Middle East. So does the traditional US policy in Middle East that favours stability at the expense so democracy.

Then we have this kind of partianship shown by Karl Rove, the architect of Bush's two presidential campaigns and now White House deputy chief of staff, expressed in these in recent comments about 9/11:

"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

I heard on the news this morning that the Bush administration was now talking to the insurgent Sunni rebels in Iraq.

The military are trying to find a way for the US to extract itself from the Iraq quagmire now that US public opinion has turned against the occupation of Iraq.

The success of the Iraqi forces is the linchpin of the US exit strategy from Iraq. That means that Iraqi forces, not foreign troops, would have to defeat the insurgency. Consequently, Iraq will slip into a civil war if the US withdraws large numbers of troops before Iraqi forces are ready to take over. This situation looks more and more like the Vietnam one to me.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:53 AM | | Comments (4)


Gary, there was an op-ed in the Washington Post which tried to explain the difference domestically between Vietnam and Iraq.

In the absence of an antiwar movement, the American people have turned against the war in Iraq. Those two facts, I suspect, are connected. …

That disapproval was key to Nixon’s political strategy. He didn’t so much defend the war as attack its critics, making common cause with what he termed the “silent majority” against a mainstream movement with a large, raucous and sometimes senseless fringe. When Nixon won reelection in a landslide, it was clear that the strategy had worked — and it has been fundamental Republican strategy ever since. ….

Which is why, however perverse this may sound, the absence of an antiwar movement is proving to be a huge political problem for the Bush administration, … The administration has no one to demonize.

I suspect Rove is trying to create something that can be villified, but I think it is falling on deaf ears. It may be dog-whistle though, and throwing raw meat at the conservative base in the US, but I am not convinced that people really believe the "aiding and comforting the enemy" rhetoric.

What has suprised me about US poltics vis-a-vis the occupation of Iraq is the congressional Democrats muting their opposition to an open-ended occupation.

Or are they beginning to speak out now that US public opinion is shifting against the occupation?

I don't see any signs of Democrats changing stance on Iraq.

Judging by Dave Johnson's post yesterday at "Seeing The Forest" (normally as liberal as it gets) recommending that the draft be instituted in order to guarantee US control of middle east oil, I'd say that the Democrats will be supporting staying there for the long haul.

On the subject of talks with iraqi rebels, I've found Billmon's set of posts recently to be pretty amusing for those who like black humour.

As for the prospect of civil war in Iraq, I've always found the "Salvador option" theory the most likely explanation of where things are heading (Google "iraq salvador option").

Gary, It hasnt really been partisan in splitting with the Administration. It has more been congressional populism. Even the "freedom fries" congressman is speaking out against the war. Which would suggest it is populism and re-election that is causing it. There are congressional elections in 2008. It could also be because the Administration is unpopular, so an easy political whacking stick.

Another possibility is that the Administration is an unpopular lame duck with no clear successor. A lame duck despite only being one year into their second term. When Dean said Republicans were white christians, Biden said Dean didnt speak for him. With Rove's recent speech claiming the Democrats want to give therapy to terrorists, Santorum, a noted right-winger, said Rove didnt speak for him.

I think there may be several presidential hopefuls in congress, including Biden and Santorum. Hagel is speaking out strongly against the war, he always seemed a tenuous supporter anyway, but he is also a Republican who may have a chance at the presidential primaries.

I suspect Iraq will be too large a baggage for congressional hopefulls. Most of them have contradictory voting records that seem to be against current popular opinion. Potentially making many "I voted for it and against it at the same time!" media moments.

I reckon a former Governor stands the best chance for that reason. Probably Mark Warner from Virginia. My wife often makes the joke that a New Jersey Republican is a Virginia Democrat, meaning that a Virginia democrat is the type of conservative that is palatable to the North-East.

It is also interesting to watch the limits of party discipline in the US. Congress is more independant than Australian parliament is. But then, the US has stronger seperation of powers, so congress can defy the president and not face a voter backlash, especially when they judge their moments politically, such as when the president is unpopular. Then again, there is Feingold, who is exceptionally independant and rewarded heavily for it by his electorate. He was the only one to vote against the Patriot Act.