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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union 2007

What did I think of last night's speech? In a word: irrelevant. That's just my initial, gut reaction.

On domestic issues President Bush talked about the usual suspects: Balanced budget, Social Security/Medicare, Better education, Health insurance woes, and Energy. But these things have been talked about for years since Bush came into office and nothing has really been done about them. What has been done mostly has gone against the Conservative core, i.e. letting Ted Kennedy take the reigns on education and screw things up even more! To be honest, if Washington is grid-locked on the above domestic issues it might just be the best thing.

Regarding the war in Iraq I think the speech was also somewhat irrelevant. President Bush will do what he wants (after all he is the Commander in Chief - that's what he is suppossed to do!), and if it succeeds then he will be the hero and we will finish the job, which I believe will result in a more stabilized Iraq and a more stabilized middle east. If he does not succeed then I think that the Congress will probably start fighting to pull out troops. Of course by that time President Bush will be in his final months as a lame duck and most people will be focussed on the next Presidential candidates and what they will do if elected.

Perhaps the war talk was not entirely irrelevant, however, because it gives the President one last push in Iraq and builds a now-or-never attitude towards Iraq. We either go forward or go backward. I'm not sure that's the best move, but it is a good one for the psychology of the country - it makes us feel like we are moving in a direction.

Here are a few key paragraphs from the speech on the war issue. They basically reiterate the President's ideology and position on the war that he has had since the beginning:

If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country – and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.

For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq, would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens... new recruits ... new resources ... and an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September 11th and invite tragedy. And ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East ... to succeed in Iraq ... and to spare the American people from this danger.

This is where matters stand tonight, in the here and now. I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you have made. We went into this largely united – in our assumptions, and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq – and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field – and those on their way.

The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. That is why it is important to work together so our Nation can see this great effort through. Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation. And this is why I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties. We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us. And we will show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.

One of the first steps we can take together is to add to the ranks of our military – so that the American Armed Forces are ready for all the challenges ahead. Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years. A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. And it would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time.

Taken from: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6970491


ktismatics said...

I think lumping the whole Iraq war with the war on terror is unjustified -- most of the action in Iraq seems motivated by sectarian strife that's been going on for centuries. And by now America is the occupying force rather than the liberator -- I think you and I would likely feel that way if we lived there.

I'm not so sure Iraq would end up in Iran's camp. Iraqis are Arab, Iranians are not; Iraqis speak Arabic, Iranians speak Parsi. If Iran tried to take over Iraq they'd have at least as much trouble as we've had. If they tried, then al-Qaida (Sunni) would be fighting against Iran (Shiite).

Bush's comments on Lebanon were, I though, self-contradictory. He pointed to the democratically-elected government in Lebanon as a success in the Middle East, but then he lambasted Hezbollah -- one of the duly-elected factions in the elected coalition government -- as on a par with al-Qaida. In my view, and arguably in the eyes of most of the world, Israel destroyed Lebanon with a massive and tragic retaliation that was entirely out of proportion to the provocation. In the Administration's eyes Israel can do no wrong. It is a challenge when countries democratically elect governments we don't like and who don't like us.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ok. Fair enough.

However, this "sectarian strife" is no longer a localized problem in some obscure part of the world that we can just ignore. All sides are breeding terrorists who are hitting western societies. I think we can both agree that after September 11 we could no longer afford to keep our heads in the sand and allow this problem to continue to fester.

The one commonality that these diverse and sometimes opposing forces share is a rage against "western" society and culture that they see as evil and immoral. Extremists believe the evil must be exterminated. I am for the war on Iraq simply because I wonder what else could be done? Senator Kerry's chatter during the 2004 campaign about more diplomacy always seemed like hot air to me. It is easy to talk about talking to people. But if they already hate you I'm not sure how much good that is going to do.

What do you think about this:
The middle east may not like us anymore than they did before the war, but since we started flexing our muscles just a bit (we could have done much, much worse!) don't you think they now have a bit more respect for us???

ktismatics said...

I thought the idea was to liberate the Iraqis, not to teach them a lesson. At first it was just Saddam and al-Qaida that we were after. Now it seems that we've come to regard the entire Middle East as anti-Western, with terrorists just being the extreme end of the continuum. What went so horribly wrong?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Dude - You are dodging the question!

ktismatics said...

You're dodging the question -- isn't that the line the talkshow hosts use when they can't think of anything clever to say? The question was what -- that the Middle East has more respect for us now because we flexed our muscles? This was intended as a serious question? Ousting Saddam was an effective show of force. Everything since then has backfired. The world was with us after 9/11; now world opinion regards the US as the single most dangerous threat to world peace. No, I wouldn't call that respect. It's the same sort of respect Saddam used to inspire in his own petty dictatorial way, but we really do have WMDs and a means of delivering them and a paranoia that seemingly knows no bounds.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I didn't ask about "the world." I didn't ask about the opinion of the French or the Germans. I asked about whether or not the middle east respected us more since we flexed our muscles in the middle east.

Ok, I realize that the "flexing our muscles" term may seem a bit too crass and masculine. However, I still hold it out there as a question. (And, yes, I still think it is a serious question.)

"The world" may have been with us after 9/11, but who wouldn't be? We were just pounded. But as soon as we started to do something about it they desert us. What's that all about?

John said...

Forget it.

ktismatics said...

I agree with John.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ok. I guess I'm outnumbered two to one....

ktismatics said...

In the spirit of open dialog, I'll answer the question. It's clear that the Muslim world already knew, pre-9/11 and pre-Iraq, that America was the most powerful nation in the world: militarily, economically, and culturally (Hollywood, popular music, etc.). The invasion of Iraq probably did demonstrate to the Middle East that a riled-up America was not to be trifled with. I suspect that in the Islamic worldview the persistence of the insurgency exposes American military weakness and lends strength to the resistance. In that sense there has been a loss of respect for American muscle.

If the US walks away, do I believe that it will be interpreted in the Middle East as weakness of will on the part of the American public? Probably. I think they'd be right. I believe the American public soured on the war not out of any ideological rethinking but because it's not going well.