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

the evolving US strategy on Iraq « Previous | |Next »
March 22, 2006

A recent speech by President Bush on Iraq outlining the strategy for the war. The three prong strategy--political, economic and security---is well in hand. The difficulties in Iraq are the price that we must pay for victory. Bush stands for "victory". His liberal critics by implication represent defeat. And in case you've forgotten, we're fighting the terrorists abroad so that we do not have to face them at home.

Tahrir Abdul Samad Numan,an Iraqi exile and peace activist, observes:

If there is an Iraq that is witnessing progress and democracy, it must exist but on a different planet and in a parallel universe! What with a non-existent government, complete break down of law, order and authority, fuel shortages, dirty drinking water, and limited electricity, everyday is a battle for survival. People are living in constant fear; they are being imprisoned without trial, detained and tortured without redress or accountability by the "officials in charge". Is this what the people deserve in post Saddam’s Iraq? It is like living in an endless nightmare.

Behind the neocon veneer of bravado, denial (there is no civil war) and rejection of criticism we have this realpolitik:

Geoff Pryor

Donald Rumsfield, the US Defence Secretary, obliges us by spells out the military logic behind the occuption; an occupation in which Iraq war is creating and inspiring a whole new cadre of terrorists. The US, it needs to be remembered has turned Iraq into a country-sized terrorist training ground.

Rumsfield's logic is this:

The plan is to prevent a civil war, and to the extent one were to occur, to have the . . . Iraqi security forces deal with it to the extent they're able to.
Huh? The rationale for US occupation is prevent the outbreak of civil war--ie., civil war would break out if the US were to withdraw--- but when one happens the US will sit on the sidelines and watch the Iraqi security forces deal with it. That is the neocon's day of victory in Iraq will come.

We needn't worry too much about the rigor or validity of Rumsfield's logic because an isolated and beleaguered President Bush says in a recent media briefing that Iraq is progressing toward a viable democracy despite the daily images of car bombings, mutilated bodies and sectarian violence. Bush's identity is that of the warrior-president at the battlements, fighting the evil enemies at the gates and the cowardly liberal defeatists within.

The neocon's belief in victory persists in face of the realities on the ground. That is when beliefs become illusions. Belief as in illusion occurs when the believer is unwilling or unable to confront the facts of the situation.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:23 PM | | Comments (17)


It is impossible to determine any policy in the Bush Administration speeches. They are willing to say anything to sooth the public. It is like a constant campaign.

I refer to your piece on the ALP's withdrawal strategy.

There is an argument amongst my friends that it is better that the troops stay there.....until they are well and truly defeated.

That way, the anglo-western govt's of the world will learn not to treat the rest of the world with such contempt.

interesting point.

Somehow I do not think that the Americans will allow that to happen.It would be too humiliating---so they will disguise the 'cut and run' by saying that the US will "stay the course".

President Bush is saying that even if there were a withdrawal of some US troops next year, American forces would still be in the country in 2009.


President Bush continues to remain convinced that he had the right strategy for victory.


What does that mean now, given that the Americans are saying that it will take another couple of years to settle Iraq down.

Settle Iraq down to what?

Gary, I think Bush is just following th media tactic of never admit a mistake. To say it had all gone wrong, and that they made a bunch of bad decisions which made an already precarious task impossible wont happen. I dont think there is any policy in his statements just constant drumbeat of cheerfulness and no mistakes. Pretty vacant really.

Greg Sheridan,the neo-con who writes in Murdoch's pro-war Australian, says:

The Iraq war was the right war against the right enemy at the right time, and waged for broadly the right reasons. There is no need to apologise about it. Notwithstanding many mistakes in execution in the peace-keeping phase, provided the coalition of the willing retains its nerve there is every chance of achieving a reasonable outcome still.

He says that since the invasion, the Iraqis have voted three times, an utterly unique experience in their history which they have embraced with enthusiasm. Is it wrong that Iraqis vote? He then goes on to say:
The US-led coalition probably needs to be in Iraq for a long time. None of this stuff is easy, but provided we don't lose our nerve, it can be done. Perhaps that makes me a neo-conservative. So be it.

The task of the little Americans is to echo the empty rhetoric of Washington.

Cameron is correct. Whatever the truth/'real' situation, and to be fair it's probably in between the doom-laden reports and Bushco's sunny optimism, these people will simply say anything to keep 'the perceptions straight' and the support figures up. There is no conceptual or actual connection between the words and the reality - it's just continuous campaigning. There are a few masters of it employed in our current government also. And Sheridan is just beyond belief.

here's a judgement from an op.ed. in the Washington Post by Fareed Zakaria:

There is no doubt that the costs of the invasion have far outweighed the benefits. But in the long view of history, will that always be true? If, after all this chaos, a new and different kind of Iraqi politics emerges, it will make a difference in the region. Even now, amid the violence, one can see that. The old order in Iraq was built on fear and terror. One group dominated the land, oppressing the others. Now representatives of all three communities -- Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds -- are sitting down at the table, trying to construct a workable bargain they can all live with.

Me thinks they are all building their own regions.

Gary, Sheridon is wrong. Iraqis used to vote when Hussein was in power. It was a perverted process, in that Hussein would get 98%-100% support. But Suharto used to get ridiculously high numbers until the people felt strong enough to throw him out democratically.

Elections are the vector to change these kleptocracies/despots. It is the weakness in these dictators as they seek to legitimise themselves in the same way the governments of the west do. Iran was the easy target in the Middle East, it has an aspiring middle class, students who were active, moderates who were making inroads into Iran's parliament.

Most of this has been destroyed since the invasion of Iraq as theocratic hardliners got fearful and started making naked power grabs such as kicking 3500 moderates off the ballot papers.

Iraq was a wrong war, as military conflict doesnt "make" nation states. The social and institutional cohesion that ends up being a nation-state is an internal process, not an externally imposed one. Freedom comes from within, not from without.

It was a Cold-war response to a systems war. The wrong one. Systems warfare isnt concerned about localities. So making a Middle Eastern West Germany was a pointless task anyway.

Sheridan is wrong.

Sheridan parrots the Republican White House line that he is required to do. In return he gets the drip feed from the American defence establishment.

It echoes the talking points of the worn out script of the Bush Administration---the current White House public relations campaign that the 'reality' in Iraq is far better than the constant stream of bad news they see on their televisions every night. Judging from the polls people have simply tuning out.

I presume that we will get more of the President as an American hero and the Republicans declaring war on faint-hearted Democrats and the unpatriotic liberal media etc etc.

The news from Iraq is "good" but the major media networks don't want to portray the good" news.

Gary, The worn out script has muddy boots on it. Doesn't seem to be working anymore given the popularity ratings of Bush and the war in Iraq.

I realised during the last State of the Union that Bush's speeches arent intended for me. I am not his audience, it is for the media. I got a shock about a month after the last SofU when I flicked channels and the 24/7 news channels were still talking about Bush saying, "we are addicted to oil". I recall laughing at that when he said it, but again, I am not his audience.

These dog and pony shows are for the media.

or shoring up his Republican heartland through the right wing media.

But the polls show that that Bush is losing the ability to communicate effectively about the core issue that now defines his Presidency.

Bush is addressing you in terms of defining you as the defeatist liberal enemy within the city gates. You are part of the problem. You are corroding the strength of the US as it fights for victory against those who want to destroy America.

Here's the old neo-con, Charles Krauthammer:

This whole debate about civil war is surreal. What is the insurgency if not a war supported by one (minority) part of Iraqi society fighting to prevent the birth of the new Iraqi state supported by another (majority) part of Iraqi society?By definition that is civil war, and there's nothing new about it.

So what has to be done?
This war will end ...when a critical mass of Sunnis stops supporting the insurgency and throws its lot in with the new Iraq.How does this happen? The stick is military -- the increased cost in Sunni blood of continuing the fight. But the carrot is political -- a place at the table for those Sunnis, some of whom are represented in parliament, who are prepared to abandon the insurgency for a share of power, a share of oil income, and a sense of security and dignity in the new Iraq.

Krauthamme ends by saying that 'This is doable. That is not to say it will be done.'

There's Bush's strategy. However the new Iraq will not be unified--it will be a loose conferdation of ethnic regions.

Gary, Bush is addressing you in terms of defining you as the defeatist liberal enemy within the city gates.

I disagree. He is not addressing me, or his supporters. His speeches are purely for the media. They are written for the media as points so they can talk about the presidency. And the media is so vacuous and uncritical, that is all it does, repeat what he says.

You can see it when his supporters ask him questions at his protected little public appearances. They dont repeat his words back at him, they actually repeat the media's words at him. Fox News type standard rhetoric, "Why won't the media tell us the good about Iraq.." etc etc.

Bush is not interesting in me or those who voted for him, he markets directly - and solely - to the media.

As to his plan in Iraq, I think his poll numbers are suffering as people realise the Iraq project is rudderless. The Bush Administration is being defined by incompetence. They have a history of it behind them now.

I read Krauthammers op-ed this morning. Since the words "Civil War" started popping up they are all rushing over themselves to claim it has always been a Civil War, Krauthammer is just doing the same. The best one was Hoagland who promptly claimed that Iraq had been in Civil War for the last thirty years, so it was dishonest to say it was just *now* falling into Civil War.



okay Bush is not addressing you directly---he markets directly - and solely - to the media.

But in addressing the media he is feeding it--giving them a template. They have the template but take the messages and the media construct you as the enemy within.

Gary, I am no impediment to his power or ability to get his way. Some moderate Republicans in Congress and some moderate Democrats in the Senate are. Most of the media pandering by the Bush Administration is for the media to isolate those people.

I consider the height of American Republicanism to be the Madison Administration, Bush doesn't even come close.

fair enough re the personal. At the media political level we have the agonistic dimension of life--conflict is the basis of the political and of history.

Carl Schmitt defined the political as the conflict between friends and enemies, and that without the friend-enemy distinction political life would vanish altogether.

Schmitt concept of the political based on the friend-enemy distinction is a weapon against ways of understanding political activity that conflate politics with other fields of inquiry such as ethics, religion and economics.

Isn't that Carl Rove's political strategy? Isn't the emphasis of the Republican media machine is on the role of antagonism and hostility as defining politics?

Rove's is a world of perpetual combat.The high point of his politics is the moment in which the enemy is recognized as the enemy, with the enemy being deemed to be heretical.

It is a political theology---so very Schmittian.

I highlight this because the important role of the media is not addressed in Madison's federalism, which aimed to control the "public passions" of the people through its use of republican and federalist principles and co-equal branches. This ignores the influence on the public passions by the American media. You could also argue that the public passions include those of the media texts.

Gary, Yes it is highly combative. There is no room for discourse. Combat is not over who has the best policy, but who has the best moral/ethical standing to determine policy.

Madison did not use the media in the same way Jefferson did. Nor did Madison stoop to a state of exception when America was being invaded by the British in 1812. He is pretty pure as far as politicians go.

I am going to have to go and read Schmitt I see.