02 May 2007

Mission Accomplished

Yesterday was, of course, the fourth anniversary of the President's "Mission Accomplished" speech, now much beloved of the anti-warriors. It is useful to read the speech today and see what was said and what was not said. It was not triumphalist, it did not celebrate the new oil fields we had added to the Empire, nor did it assume that all the hard work was done.

But there is another point about that day that I never see being made: the White House's reluctance to give that speech and that, in giving it, they were accommodating the UN. The point of the speech was not (merely) to celebrate a great feat of allied arms. The main point of the speech was to declare the end of major combat operations. The White House was reluctant to make this declaration, the UN was insistent: it would not go into Iraq and take up some of the burden of reconstruction until major combat operations had been declared over.

The legal effect of the President's declaration was to change the United States military in Iraq from an invader into an occupier. The main difference is that an occupier is responsible for the governance of the country as a whole and the welfare of the population. An invader is not. The US felt it was too early to make that shift, but the UN and certain of our "friends and allies" who had sat out the war held out the promise that they would participate in reconstruction but not during the invasion. Of course, at the end of the day the UN and its ilk didn't do much anyway because, in fact, the situation on the ground was not sufficiently stable.

(This is our 350th post. We note that so that you will understand how humbly we congratulate the Ducks on their 500th post.)


Oroborous said...

That explanation brings up my chief complaint about the Bush admin: They STINK OUT LOUD at explaining decisions and policies, and rallying public support.

Are they incompetent, do they simply not care, or are they always playing some deep game of "lowering expectations" ?

Beats me.

Harry Eagar said...

They're incompetent.

Besides, I don't know how you can rally support for an unprincipled policy, at least not if your target is principled people.

If, at minimum, we believed our own selves, the first announcement we would have made as 'occupiers' would have been recognition of an independent Kurdistan, we'd have been true to American values and have made the Iranians and Turks and Syrians wild with anxiety.

That would have been a good thing, wouldn't it?

Besides, if you're a born-again nation builder, prudence if not principle suggests trying to build real nations and not fake ones.

b said...

o: I think it's based on the fact that Pres. Bush is from Texas. There's some liberal media in Austin, but they pretty much have zero influence over the state as a whole, so he didn't really have to work to sell his policies as governor. Plus, the Democrats in TX (who were brand new to being the minority) weren't really ideologically much different from him. So he radically underestimated the outright hatred he'd face from the political opposition and media in DC. Why has he never properly adjusted to "conditions on the ground"? That's a good question, and I suppose it just might be plain old stubbornness.

David said...

Which principled people do you have in mind, Harry?

I agree that the administration's inability to make its case is frustrating. As the run up to the war showed, they can sway opinion if they want to. The president gave a series of good speeches that moved his argument. It's also true that the press does its best to block information favorable to the administration. But it's also true that people just aren't paying attention. After all, I do know about the invasion/occupation issue simply from paying attention.

Also, there's the whole Bush reticence issue, best captured in the story that GHWB's mother objected to his presidential campaign because he kept talking about himself. Add to that GWB's decision, which has stood him in good stead, not to be a daily presence on tv and not to run a Clintonian war-room when not actually campaining.

On the other hand, the do have a tendency to think short term and just get over the immediate hurdle. The best example of this is the decision to focus on WMDs as the rationale for the war. It was a good rationale and it worked, but that reliance has now come back to bite them in the rear.

Harry Eagar said...

People who believe in the principles that underlie the Declaration and the Constitution: things like antimonarchy, rule of law, self-determination, stuff like that.

I will accept that there are not many of us left.

Since I think Bush is wrong about everything, and the Democrats are wrong about everything, only on different grounds, the inability of either to make their insupportable cases neither surprises nor bothers me.

Two things that do bother me in this context are: 1. the incompetence displayed in the first year of occupation did not, so far as I can tell, cause any reassessment to discover whether wrong principles were a component of the failure of the occupation; and 2. the simple incompetence of a bunch of yahoos who cannot run a FEMA or a DOJ or a war or anything else.

'We're problem solvers,' Bush said.

What problems has he made progress on solving since his election?

I cannot think of a one.

Oroborous said...

Since I think Bush is wrong about everything, and the Democrats are wrong about everything...


That's a tough row to hoe. It would make me a cynic.

Hey Skipper said...


Since I think Bush is wrong about everything, and the Democrats are wrong about everything ...

Since the decision to force regime change is inherently binary -- there is no alternative to either "yes" or "no" -- your assertion can't possibly be correct.

Harry Eagar said...

Both are wrong because the wrong foe was identified.

If, as I think, the enemy is Islam (or political Islam, or fundamentalist Islam or however you want to restrict it), then changing a secularist regime doesn't accomplish anything significant.

My latest suggestion for breaking the impasse is for Congress to recognize that a state of war has existed between the G. Satan and Iran since 1979.

Part two would be to then do nothing. This goes against all American practice; we are country that has never gone on the strategic defensive.

Those who believe in a moderate political Islam should back my idea, because my assumption is that given the open choice of being at war with the G.S. ought to get the moderate Muslims moving.

Duck said...

This is our 350th post.

Congrats, David. You're catching up fast! Pretty soon you'll run out of secrets to divulge.