August 31, 2004

YOU CAN MEND IT, BUT CAN'T END IT:

Bush Cites Doubt America Can Win War on Terror (ELISABETH BUMILLER, Aug. 30, 2004, NY Times)

President Bush, in an interview broadcast on Monday, said he did not think America could win the war on terror but that it could make terrorism less acceptable around the world, a departure from his previous optimistic statements that the United States would eventually prevail.

In the interview with Matt Lauer of the NBC News program "Today," conducted on Saturday but shown on the opening day of the Republican National Convention, Mr. Bush was asked if the United States could win the war against terrorism, which he has made the focus of his administration and the central thrust of his re-election campaign.

"I don't think you can win it," Mr. Bush replied. "But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."

As recently as July 14, Mr. Bush had drawn a far sunnier picture. "I have a clear vision and a strategy to win the war on terror," he said.

At a prime-time news conference in the East Room of the White House on April 13, Mr. Bush said: "One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we are asking questions, is, 'Can you ever win the war on terror?' Of course you can."

It was unclear if Mr. Bush had meant to make the remark to Mr. Lauer, or if he misspoke. But White House officials said the president was not signaling a change in policy, and they sought to explain his statement by saying he was emphasizing the long-term nature of the struggle.


You obviously can't end terrorism--it's been around for hundreds--if not thousands--of years and is a useful tactic for folks who can't take on their enemies on the battlefield.

Nor can you wipe out Islamicism any more than winning the Civil War and WWII brought an end to white supremacist ideology and neo-Nazism. You can render it nugatory though, as those other pathologies are today. That will require the radical transformation of the Middle East towards liberal democratic protestant capitalism. There won't be a V-I Day we can celebrate, where Islamicism officially surrenders, but it will be obvious to everyone that those militants who remain represent only a very marginal part of otherwise healthy and decent societies.

Perhaps this is an appropriate measure: we'll have won when they get to the point where when they have an Oklahoma City Bombing of their own--and they will--their populaces hold such an action to be unacceptable and insist that their elected leaders hound the perpetrators and their fellow travelers the same way we did.


MORE:
Bush reverses course, says we'll win terror war (Associated Press, August 31, 2004 )

As Bush continued a pre-convention journey through one closely contested state after another, aides scrambled to clarify the president's remark and contain the story. And in Tuesday's speech before the American Legion, with popular Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona by his side, Bush himself sought to hit back.

``In this different kind of war, we may never sit down at a peace table,'' Bush said. ``But make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win.''

Bush also defended his decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Though no weapons of mass destruction have been found, he said Saddam had the capability to make them.

``Knowing what I know today I would have taken the same action,'' he said. ``America and the world are safer with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell.''

Bush's war on terror remark was the latest in a string of recent comments in which the president seemed to backpedal previous certainties.

In a flurry of interviews timed to coincide with this week's convention, Bush acknowledged a ``miscalculation'' about what the United States would encounter in postwar Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime and said the ``catastrophic success'' of a swift military victory there helped produce the still-potent insurgency.


"reverses course"? How about "clarifies"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 31, 2004 1:52 PM
Comments

More like "says the exact same thing but in a way that can't be taken out of context."

Posted by: Timothy at August 31, 2004 3:39 PM

Why in hell don't they report the entire dialog? Bush was asked if he thought the war could be won in , say four years? Bush replied he never said it could be won in four years. So the question continued in the vein of can it be won. Bush, I think, was still referring to the four year thing when he said it couldn't be won. That's the way I took it. Not his best choice of words but not a clear declaration that we couldn't win the damn thing.

Posted by: Tom Wall at August 31, 2004 4:47 PM

No, reverses course is more accurate.

If he says we can't win, then says we can, that is not a clarification. That is a reversal.

Stop sounding like John Kerry. Now.

Posted by: mklutra at August 31, 2004 5:04 PM

It's true that it was taken out of context, but in his position you have to know that the press will jump all over any such seeming inconsistency.

My take on this yesterday was that Bush thinking we can't win the war is mystifying, but Kerry's thinking we're not even in a war is terrifying.

Posted by: brian at August 31, 2004 6:06 PM

mk:

How about a compromise?: he corrected a mistake.

Posted by: oj at August 31, 2004 6:08 PM

The President needs to realize you can't give those bastards an inch. Just give them the party line. That's all they deserve because they've proven they'll only distort any nuance. Leave the nuances to Kerry until your next term; then say any damn thing you want. Better yet, let Cheney blow them away ... "big time."

Posted by: genecis at August 31, 2004 10:16 PM

On Lauer, Bush said 'I don't think you can "win" it..", as one might hold up fingers to mean "quote".

I understood it perfectly. He meant there would be no treaty-signing on the USS Missouri in alQaedastan Harbor.

The presstitutes understood it too. This is similar to straight-quoting a sarcastic comment, from the people who are always lecturing us about nuance & context.

In other words, it's just more "Gotcha" journalism.

Posted by: Noel at September 1, 2004 12:29 AM

It's taken out of context in the same way as Kerry's "I voted for it before I voted against it" - an unfortunate quote that will of course be used as much as possible by their respective political opponents. Hey, it can happen to anyone.

But how many of the Bush supporters here have used Kerry's quote without explaining the context? How many have used Gore's "I invented the Internet" (which isn't even an actual quote) without explaining the context?

Posted by: Minotaur at September 1, 2004 1:30 AM

But Bush's statement was true, regardless of context. Gore's was false regardless.

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 8:24 AM

"But Bush's statement was true, regardless of context."

If what Bush said yesterday ("I don't think you can win it") is true regardless of context, then is what he is saying today ("We will win it") false?

"Gore's was false regardless."

In that he was misquoted, yes, it was a "false quote". What he actually said (especially in context, since he corrected himself in the following sentences) was not false.

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 8:50 AM

creeper:

What he's saying today is only true in context. What he said yesterday is objectively true. If we can't wipe out Nazism and Communism there's little reason to suppose we'll wipe out Islamicism and terror is oinly a tactic--we'll never be rid of it.

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 9:06 AM

I think the whole confusion has arisen due to the slogan "War on Terror", which is actually closer to the rhetorical devices used in "War on Poverty" etc. The problem arises when the Bush administration tries to blur the lines between the two, saying we're "at war" with all the political benefits that that entails, and on the other hand wanting to bathe in the glory of a "mission accomplished", sovereignty transferred and so on.

Funny how Bush's ill-advised quote has brought this little discussion to the forefront.

The war on Islamic fundamentalism can not come to a decisive end, but it is by no means a given that the strategy chosen by the Bush administration is the optimum path to even reducing the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism. Sure, a liberal democracy smack in the Middle East would be desirable and in the long term improve the whole region... but are the actions of the Bush administration likely to bring that about at this point? Keep in mind that it has to also counterbalance the anger of Muslims in the region, fuelling anti-American sentiment.

(Terrorism is a tactic. Terror is an emotion.)

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 10:03 AM

creeper:

Yes, but War on Islamicism is un-PC, almost as bad as Crusade, which is what the war really is.

This may not be the optimum strategy but no one, especially John Kerry, has offered a different one for democratizing the Middle East, have they?

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 10:19 AM

"War on Islamicism is un-PC, almost as bad as Crusade, which is what the war really is."

Hey, it wasn't like the Bush administration was forced to attach a hip slogan to their foreign policy or their pursuit of al Qaeda. If they really had to pick one, "let's get al Qaeda" would have been enough to start out with. Doesn't lend itself to trying to extend the notion to other countries such as Iraq, unfortunately, since whatever connections there were between Iraq and al Qaeda were marginal or over 10 years old. It would have raised a lot more questions back when Bush was preparing to invade Iraq.

"War on Terror", as nonsensical as the phrase is, is vague enough to extend it to go after any party connected to any terrorist entity opposed to the US (or Israel).

"This may not be the optimum strategy but no one, especially John Kerry, has offered a different one for democratizing the Middle East, have they?"

To be precise, the Bush administration itself hasn't offered this "strategy" in any more but the vaguest of terms, and facts on the ground in Iraq at the moment suggest that the democratic experiment over there is in serious jeopardy - it may well become another Afghanistan, with different factions controlling parts of the country (former warlords, Baathists, extremists etc.).

If the idea is to serve as an inspiring example to the rest of the region, I'm not convinced that the Bush administration's strategy is working out even as they themselves envisioned it. And if that is the case, and their short-term strategy (read: post-war planning) did not sufficiently support their long-term strategy, who do they have to blame but themselves?

Even if one agreed with the long-term idea of democratizing Iraq leading to a reformed Middle East (and I do think the idea has merit), has the Bush administration acted effectively to make that possible? Or have they failed in moving us closer towards that objective?

("The war is really a Crusade"? What the -?!)

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 1:06 PM

Iraq isn't a country and it should be divided. Kurdistan is already a reasonably reformist region--by Middle Eastern standards. The Shi'a are uniquely well-suited to developing towards democracy. The Sunni extremists are a problem and may have to be killed in battle or driven out if they can't accept being a minority in a Shiastan.

It's a Crusade in the sense that we have to dramatically alter Islam in order to make the region more like the West or it will remain a festering cesspool.

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 1:41 PM

Granted, Iraq was not founded along established ethnic/national boundaries. There are, however, major problems with splitting it up, which you may be aware of.

Kurdistan is the most advanced of the Iraqi regions, and has been for some time, even before Saddam was overthrown. However, other countries with Kurdish minorities (including US allies) object to a separate Kurdish state. Their co-operation, which is important, depends on the US playing ball in dealing with the problem.

The Shiite region, if split off, is at serious risk of becoming a de facto part of Iran. It would not be in the interests of the US to strengthen Iran - yet what influence would the US retain there to prevent this if the country was split up?

The Sunni region, unlike the Kurdish or the Shiite region, has virtually no oil resources, as well as plenty of former Baathists. Allowing the country to be split would turn this into a continuing hotbed of terrorist activity and recruitment for decades to come. What was all that about turning Iraq into a shining beacon of democracy for the rest of the region to follow?

"It's a Crusade in the sense that we have to dramatically alter Islam in order to make the region more like the West or it will remain a festering cesspool."

Islam, the fastest growing world religion today, is much bigger than "the region". If a world religion can actually be "dramatically altered" how do you think that could be accomplished, and how do you see what is going on in Iraq right now as helping to accomplish that?

Is it possible you misspoke and didn't mean to suggest that "Islam" and "the Middle East" are one and the same?

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 2:01 PM

Incidentally: Iraq is, indeed, a country.

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 2:13 PM

* Kurdistan is going to add portions of Syria to the West and Turkey to the Nortth over time. We decided at the time of WWI that ethnic groups of sufficient size which perceive themselves as nations are entitled to be treated as such. The Kurds are the largest of these groups that doesn't currently have their own state. They will.

* Iran will become more like Iraq, not vice versa.

* There's nothing wrong with a hotbed--it could also be called a free fire zone.

* Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world and Islam will have to accomodate itself to both that fact and the reality that it is only the Western/Judeo-Christian system--of liberal democratic protestant capitalism that provides a successful way of ordering a state. The End of History won't be bypassing Islam.

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 2:20 PM

Although the 14 Points called for ethnic/linguistic/religious sovereignties, Wilson sold almost all of them down the river.

The actual policy of the US has never been to support popular sovereignty, as East Timor proves.

That was an interesting colloquy between creeper and Orrin and lays out why ANY western-oriented strategy is doomed.

If the future of the Koran Belt is Islamic, then it cannot also be democratic.

Whatever its future is, it won't be Christian.

Bush's policy of appeasing Islam isn't showing much in the short run and cannot benefit the US in the long run.

The point, which all the commentary seems to miss, about the French journalist hostages is that Islam is not prepared to get along with any infidels on any terms.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 1, 2004 2:49 PM

Harry:

That's wrong as to all particulars, but most obviously so as you look at Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco, Tunisia, etc. and see how easily Islamic states fit into international structures. The pretty simple task in front of us is to make a few recalcitrant Arab states resemble the already Westernizing/Christianizing states of Islam.

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 3:05 PM

Kurdistan: I wish them luck. For the moment and the foreseeable future, it is a sticky subject between the US and its allies.

Iran: again, I hope so. Unfortunately, the invasion of Iraq has strengthened the hand of the hard-liners in Iran, and weakened the reformers.

There's plenty wrong with a hotbed. Simply labeling it a free fire zone does not accomplish anything. See Northern Ireland, Palestine etc.

"Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world and Islam will have to accomodate itself to both that fact [...]"

Having now found a reasonably detailed statistic (http://www.bible.ca/global-religion-statistics-world-christian-encyclopedia.htm), I may have to retract my earlier statement. World-wide, it appears Christianity is growing faster.

A couple of observations:

Interestingly, Christianity is not the fastest growing religion in the US (http://www.gc.cuny.edu/studies/key_findings.htm). Faster growth can be found among Muslims and those not ascribing to any religion (agnostics/atheists?).

Both Christianity and Islam gain plenty of numbers due to population growth.

In the Western world (The Americas, Oceania, Europe), Islam gains numbers due to conversions. Christianity loses due to conversions - people are leaving Christianity in the "Western/Judeo-Christian" world. The only exception to this is Europe, though I'm guessing that if you split this into West and East Europe, you'd find that West Europe is roughly in line with the other Western regions, while in East Europe, there are still converts to Christianity outside of population growth.

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 3:59 PM

creeper:

* No one said major change isn't messy. It's just inevitable.

* You think the U.S. would tolerate a Palestine? Ask the people of Hiroshima how we fight. The Shi'ites meanwhile have been oppressed for hundreds of years--hard to see them minding killing Sunni.

* The West is dead. All that's left that matters is America and our future lies elsewhere. Christian conversions in China, India, Africa, etc. make Christianity the future as it is the present and as it was the past.

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 4:08 PM

oj:

"No one said major change isn't messy. It's just inevitable."

Major change can be messy; and there are many paths ahead of us. Something that seems inevitable to you may be one of those many paths.

"You think the U.S. would tolerate a Palestine? Ask the people of Hiroshima how we fight."

First of all, the US is most certainly tolerating "a Palestine", and would have some major problems in its international relations if it didn't at least pay lip service to that.

Second, what would applying the principle of Hiroshima to the Israel/Palestine problem accomplish? Given that a major issue fueling Islamic fundamentalism is the Israel/Palestine problem, applying such an overt and heavy-handed stance would exacerbate the situation beyond belief.

"The Shi'ites meanwhile have been oppressed for hundreds of years--hard to see them minding killing Sunni."

And what does that solve, exactly? It seems like you're proposing a rather glib solution to the problem. Not that I have all the answers myself, but what you are proposing does not in any way address the problem of international terrorism. It would drive the Shi'ites into the arms of Iran (and both of them toward a more fundamentalist stance).

The Sunni, meanwhile, would turn to al Qaeda wholesale.And if we then applied the Hiroshima 'solution', we would have not just the whole region turning against us, but pretty much everybody else. Not that any leader we would ever have would be quite that insane.

"All that's left that matters is America and our future lies elsewhere."

Not in Christianity then? More like the rest of the Western world - increasingly secular, capitalist?

"Christian conversions in China, India, Africa, etc. make Christianity the future as it is the present and as it was the past."

Note that in Asia and Africa Christianity and Islam are virtually tied in their growth. Also, it appears that the more advanced a country is, the more it tends toward secularism. (Strangely enough, the fastest growing religion in the US (apart from atheism/agnosticism, which is not a religion, but more the absence of religion) is paganism.)

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 4:44 PM

creeper:

The Israelis have a 9-11 every week. We had one and overthrew two governments. We'd destroy a Palestine that targeted us.

The Shi'ites of Iran are Persian not Arab, so that scenario seems iunlikely in a tribally based land to begin with, but the Shi'a are our allies in all this, not our enemies.

No, America is the last Christian nation of the West and we'll turn our attention to societies that are rising and away from those that are dying--the secular West. We'll share more values with Iran than with Europe in a generation.

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 4:57 PM

"The Israelis have a 9-11 every week. We had one and overthrew two governments. We'd destroy a Palestine that targeted us."

I misunderstood - I didn't realize you meant it as a hypothetical Israel/Palestine with us in the role of Israel.

"The Shi'ites of Iran are Persian not Arab, so that scenario seems iunlikely in a tribally based land to begin with, but the Shi'a are our allies in all this, not our enemies."

The Shi'a in Iran are not necessarily our allies. While I don't think the Shi'a in Iraq are our enemies, it remains to be seen how long they remain friendly to us, especially while we maintain a military presence there.

"No, America is the last Christian nation of the West and we'll turn our attention to societies that are rising and away from those that are dying--the secular West."

True, America among developed nations is by far the most Christian, Ireland being a close second. "Last Christian nation of the West" is probably somewhat hyperbolic. Germany will most likely be run by the Christian Democrats after the next election, and on the other hand, in the US Christianity is losing support, while Islam, paganism and mostly non-religious orientation are gaining in numbers - see my earlier link.

"we'll turn our attention to societies that are rising"

China and India... not exactly Christian countries. And the more affluent they will become, the less religious/more secular.

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 5:48 PM

Could you post any actual data to support your claim that America is getting more religious? I've already agreed with you that America is most religious among developed nations, but after clicking through the first three or four links, it's clear you've thrown me a little timewaster of opinions and unrelated articles, and no pertinent data.

Yes, America is very religious. Agreed, again. I maintain that Christianity is on the decline even in the USA, while non-religiosity (whatever you want to call it, agnosticism/atheism) is on the rise, as are, among others, paganism and Islam. The link to support this is here: http://www.gc.cuny.edu/studies/key_findings.htm

If you have more reliable data that completely contradict this, I would love to see it.

Something just occurred to me... are you a Christian? It seems to me that you're a bit gung-ho on the spreading of Christianity, as well as its virtues, but on the other hand you display some not entirely Christian attitudes toward others. Who would Jesus bomb?

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 7:24 PM

Just catching up on Harry Eagar's post above:

oj,

Do you think that the idea of a democracy in the Middle East and a pro-Western/pro-US regime in the Middle East are compatible? As in, could they be the same thing? And if so, how could such a thing be accomplished?

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 7:36 PM

Unbelievers:

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 7:36 PM

oj:

A quote not often heard, for sure. Does it represent the fringe of Christianity that is no better than Islamic fundamentalism? How does it get along with "Thou shallt not kill"?

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 7:44 PM

No, it's the mainstream. Christianity's as blood-soaked as Islam. Murder is forbidden, not killing.

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 8:02 PM

"No, it's the mainstream. Christianity's as blood-soaked as Islam. Murder is forbidden, not killing."

Oh, okay then.

Sheesh.

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 8:06 PM

Is this one of those translation problems, like the time they changed "temple harlot" to "virgin"?

"Thou shallt not kill" is inoperative... it's okay if you have a good reason?

Just curious...

(And somehow I'm not surprised in the slightest that non-religiosity is the fastest growing "religion" in the US.)

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 8:09 PM

creeper:

A democracy wouldn't necessarily be pro-America right off the bat but if they stay one they will drift our way over time. Pro-American is less important though than getting their economic development going.

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 8:11 PM

"A democracy wouldn't necessarily be pro-America right off the bat but if they stay one they will drift our way over time."

Western Europe, which is filled with democracies that have been going for 50-60 years, seem to be on a trend moving away from the US. Including that stuff about Schroeder taking advantage of anti-American sentiment to win an election - though I think that was exacerbated by anti-Bush feelings specifically. I don't think it would have been possible under Clinton, or even under Bush Sr.

"Pro-American is less important though than getting their economic development going."

Fair enough. Let's see what happens.

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 8:19 PM

Yes, Western Europe is dying as a function of its secularism. A Reformed Islam would hopefully avoid that pitfall, but not necessarily. They'd be peaceful though while they declined back into oblivion, like Europe.

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 8:45 PM

I was under the impression that it was the remarkable release of regulations that put the American free market economy ahead of the curve.

"Yes, Western Europe is dying as a function of its secularism."

Since the US is also becoming more secular (more even than it is becoming Muslim or pagan) and becoming less (practicing) Christian, does this mean that the US is also "dying"?

BTW, you haven't posted any data to show that Christianity in the US is either constant or on the rise, so for the time being I'm afraid I have to assume that you're conceding this point. I look forward to you backing up this point though.

Posted by: creeper at September 1, 2004 8:56 PM

creeper, Orrin considers himself Christian, although he would not be accepted in any of the Christian churches where I grew up.

He says he'd conform if he had to. But the fact is, he isn't asked to conform, and the views he expresses are not Christian as most self-professed Christians understand the word.

I'm no heresy hunter, and if a man says he's Christian, then he's Christian.

But that does not translate to his views matching some worldwide movement.

To the extent that the world is Christianizing, it is also unOrrinizing.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 1, 2004 10:44 PM

creeper:

American belief:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,99945,00.html
Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 08:19 PM

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2004 11:58 PM

oj:

The link appears to be dead.

Posted by: creeper at September 2, 2004 1:44 AM

oj:

I got the content of the article via another source now. It doesn't say anything about Christianity as a trend, either on the increase or decrease, and therefore does not contradict the data I posted regarding this. I'm not sure if you meant to post it with that in mind.

Posted by: creeper at September 2, 2004 1:54 AM
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