Iraq Prebuttal: Get Specific
The Facts Will Matter
By Dan McLaughlin Posted in War — Comments (0) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
1. In spirit, I would like President Bush to echo the following:
You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination. But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period . . . this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
2. In practice, however, Bush has given the general 50,000 foot overview of the war so many times he will be tuned out in minutes if he does it again. He needs to follow the example of FDR and Reagan and be specific. Acknowledge that the public has heard this before, and get through the summary overview very, very quickly (if more is needed, save it for the end of the speech); remind them of the specific advances made in Iraq; acknowledge the specific challenges remaining; identify specific enemies; etc. I myself would start with something like the following outline (written as much as possible in Bush's style and within the parameters of what he might realistically do), but I stress that it needs to be chock full of dates, places, names, to make people understand that the president's strategy is more than just aspirations, it's a carefully considered analysis of where we stand, what we are trying to accomplish and what we need to do to get there. I would add that the more specific Bush can be about who the enemy is, the better, but that may be more than we can hope at this juncture.
My fellow Americans, I have been speaking to you for more than five years now about the global war on terror. I ask for your attention this evening because we have come to a critical turning point in the war.
I have said many times that this war would be long and difficult, and fought on many fronts. In truth, the war against America and its allies began decades ago and escalated whenever it seemed that America would not strike back. Our enemies took many forms - individuals, organized terror groups, and hostile governments, sometimes in combination. They used many methods, from car bombings to beheadings to hostage-taking. They spoke in the words of Islam, but in their hands, even faith itself is just another weapon. Their goal, at all times, was to convince the people of the Arab nations and the people of the Muslim faith that they alone were a power to be feared - and that America feared them as well.
Finally, on September 11, their aggression came to our shores in a form we could no longer deny. We vowed that day that we would stop just reacting to our own fears - we would bring the enemy's fears to life in the enemy's own backyard. Let them be afraid. And the thing they fear above all others is that the Arab and Muslim peoples should be free.
That is why, when we removed the dictator of Iraq, they chose to make Iraq the central front in the war on terror. Foreign terrorists flocked to Iraq, led by Al Qaeda's own Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Foreign governments, like Iran and Syria, have also interfered in Iraq's affairs. I have explained many times why it was necessary to go to war in Iraq; I understand that many of my friends on the Democrat side of the aisle disagree. But the strength of a democracy is that we don't have to agree about the past to solve the problems of the future. I hope that the new leadership in Congress will work with me on the strategy I am laying out tonight, because all of us will be better off if America succeeds.
Our strategy must build on our successes, and recognize our failures. For more than three years now, America has been setting goals in Iraq and meeting them. [At this stage I would walk through the chronology in specific terms, with dates - toppling Saddam's regime, killing Uday/Qusay, capturing Saddam, transferring power, beating al-Sadr in Najaf, re-taking Fallujah, holding elections, ratifying a constitution, forming a new government, killing Zarqawi, trying/executing Saddam, handing over security in specific provinces. It's a compelling narrative when you lay out the dates and milestones]
Our enemies in Iraq know they cannot stop any single thing we set out to do. We fought Saddam Hussein, and we won. We fought Zarqawi, and we won. We fought al-Sadr's forces once, in Najaf, and we won.
But they fear freedom in Iraq, and they fight to make free Iraqis fear them. And so, to win in Iraq, we need to do more than reach our own goals. We need to deny the enemy his goals.
We do not win in Iraq by making the fighting stop altogether - desperate, cornered men may fight on for many years, long after we have gone. Instead, we win in Iraq when free Iraqis no longer fear that the enemy will win if we leave. And we will stay until we reach that day. For years now, we have kept that goal in mind, building Iraqi forces when it would sometimes have been easier to do everything ourselves. In many parts of Iraq, that strategy has succeeded, leaving no doubt that the local authorities and the Iraqi Army could take charge.
But in Baghdad, the strategy has failed. It has failed in large part because of foreign interference, as Iranian-backed extremists have escalated the fighting. Before we can take another step in handing over authority, Iraqi forces need more help to bring enough order to the city. We cannot allow violence in Baghdad to undermine all the other progress in Iraq. That is why I am ordering the following steps:
[Details of the expanded troop presence and other specifics, as specific as we can be without undermining operational security. Make sure not to describe it as a surge - the troops are there to accomplish a goal, not meet a deadline]
[This leaves the final question. Beyond securing Baghdad and training Iraqis, there remains the final matter of cutting off Iranian and to a lesser extent Syrian involvement and killing al-Sadr. Unfortunately, there are reasons of geopolitics why President Bush may not be able to be as specific about our plans in those regards, but the speech should telegraph both our lack of patience with al-Sadr and our intention to push back at foreign interference in Iraq]