Sunday, May 28, 2006

Bush on the Long War

Bush has always sought out military audiences at every opportunity during his Presidency.  On Saturday, he addressed the graduating class at West Point:  President Delivers Commencement Address at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Mitchie Stadium, United States Military Academy at West Point 05/27/06.  President Mission Accomplished sat out to cast himself as a new Harry Truman, rallying the nation against a decades-long adversary:

Fortunately, we had a President named Harry Truman, who recognized the threat, took bold action to confront it, and laid the foundation for freedom's victory in the Cold War.

President Truman set a clear doctrine. In a speech to Congress, he called for military and economic aid to Greece and Turkey, and announced a new doctrine that would guide American policy throughout the Cold War. He told the Congress: "It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." With this new doctrine, and with the aid to back it up, Greece and Turkey were saved from communism, and the Soviet expansion into Southern Europe and the Middle East was stopped.

Truman would have gagged to think a character like George W. Bush was posing himself in Truman's image.  But that obviously doesn't discourage our President.

On Saturday, he sat out to declare the Long War as the rightful successor to the Cold War.  Bush and his supporters believe that they've found the ideology - and the related scare tactics - to establish the national security state, with its Unilateral Executive ruling above the law, for the indefinite future.  His pitch goes like this:

Today, at the start of a new century, we are again engaged in a war unlike any our nation has fought before - and like Americans in Truman's day, we are laying the foundations for victory. (Applause.) The enemies we face today are different in many ways from the enemy we faced in the Cold War. In the Cold War, we deterred Soviet aggression through a policy of mutually assured destruction. Unlike the Soviet Union, the terrorist enemies we face today hide in caves and shadows - and emerge to attack free nations from within. The terrorists have no borders to protect, or capital to defend. They cannot be deterred - but they will be defeated. America will fight the terrorists on every battlefront, and we will not rest until this threat to our country has been removed.

While there are real differences between today's war and the Cold War, there are also many important similarities.  Like the Cold War, we are fighting the followers of a murderous ideology that despises freedom, crushes all dissent, has territorial ambitions, and pursues totalitarian aims.  Like the Cold War, our enemies are dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and lack the resolve to defend our way of life.  Like the Cold War, our enemies believe that the innocent can be murdered to serve a political vision. And like the Cold War, they're seeking weapons of mass murder that would allow them to deliver catastrophic destruction to our country.  If our enemies succeed in acquiring such weapons, they will not hesitate to use them, which means they would pose a threat to America as great as the Soviet Union.

Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete victory.

Bush's current approach is to promise Victory in Iraq.  As Sid Blumenthal just wrote:

Bush doesn't know that he can't achieve victory. He doesn't know that seeking victory worsens his prospects. He doesn't know that the U.S. military has abandoned victory in the field, though it has been reporting that to him for years. But the president has no rhetoric beyond "victory."   (From "Victory"? Forget It Salon 05/25/06)

And he positions the Long War ideology in relation to his current military threats against Iran:

Our strategy to protect America is based on a clear premise: The security of our nation depends on the advance of liberty in other nations. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country. And we learned an important lesson: Decades of excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe.  So long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place where terrorists foment resentment and threaten American security.

So we are pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. I believe the desire for liberty is universal - and by standing with democratic reformers across a troubled region, we will extend freedom to millions who have not known it - and lay the foundation of peace for generations to come.

We're still in the early stages of this struggle for freedom and, like those first years of the Cold War, we've seen setbacks, and challenges, and days that have tested America's resolve.  Yet we've also seen days of victory and hope.  We've seen people in Afghanistan voting for the first democratic parliament in a generation.  We have seen jubilant Iraqis dancing in the streets, holding up ink-stained fingers, celebrating their freedom.  We've seen people in Lebanon waving cedar flags and securing the liberty and independence of their land.  We've seen people in Kyrgyzstan drive a corrupt regime from power and vote for democratic change.  In the past four years alone, more than 110 million human beings across the world have joined the ranks of the free - and this is only the beginning.  The message has spread from Damascus to Tehran that the future belongs to freedom - and we will not rest until the promise of liberty reaches every people and every nation.  (my emphasis)

From Damascus to Tehran.  The two targets that the neocons had in mind after the invasion of Iraq when they talked about making "a left turn [Syria] or a right turn".  Of course, the Iraq War hasn't turned out to be the cakewalk they expected.

Bringing "the promise of liberty" to "every people and every nation" of the world through Iraq-style wars of liberation promises to be a Long War indeed.

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