The President's "An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure" speech
"Five years into this struggle, it's important to take stock of what's been accomplished -- and the difficult work that remains."
By AcademicElephant Posted in War — Comments (65) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
President Bush addressed the Military Officers Association of America this afternoon in the second of a series of speeches designed to communicate his policy on the global war on terror as we approach the 9/11 anniversary, and of course the looming mid-term elections. A note on this: the Democrats have taken it upon themselves to issue a critique of the President's policy before he gave his speech, which they archly call "Neo-'Con.'" Now I'm as big of a fan of a good pun as anyone, but there is a time and a place for such things. Even if you are awed by the cleverness of the genius who crafted this rapier word play on "conservative" and "confidence trick," you should probably resist the temptation to make a pun the title of your counter-terrorism policy, which you are issuing in an attempt to make voters believe you have a serious alternative to Mr. Bush's strategy to propose. Of course, the Democrats have no such thing. The President, on the other hand, appears to be hitting his stride and I must say I think today's effort was his most effective address on this topic for some time. The speech was wide-ranging; Mr. Bush painted a detailed verbal portrait of the evil and deadly enemy we face, which is wounded but not decimated, and then went on to describe the evolving strategy we have been using, and which Mr. Bush strongly believes we should continue to use, against them.
The President began with a long discussion of what al Qaeda and related terrorist groups and their sponsors have achieved, and what they themselves have said they want to achieve. One thing I found particularly interesting was a passage in a letter from Usama bin Laden to Mullah Omar of Taliban fame, which was found in 2002:
In it, bin Laden says that al Qaeda intends to "launch," in his words, "a media campaign to create a wedge between the American people and their government." This media campaign, bin Laden says, will send the American people a number of messages, including "that their government will bring them more losses in finances and casualties." And he goes on to say that "they are being sacrificed to serve the big investors, especially the Jews." Bin Laden says that by delivering these messages, al Qaeda "aims at creating pressure from the American people on the American government to stop their campaign against Afghanistan." Bin Laden and his allies are absolutely convinced they can succeed in forcing America to retreat and causing our economic collapse. They believe our nation is weak and decadent, and lacking in patience and resolve. And they're wrong.
And lest you think Mr. Bush was somehow running away from Iraq and reverting to the UBL bogeyman here, he immediately turned to that topic, noting that while the terrorists would dearly love to regain their stronghold in Afghanistan, "they made clear that the most important front in their struggle against America is Iraq:"
Here is what al Qaeda says they will do if they succeed in driving us out of Iraq: The terrorist Zawahiri has said that al Qaeda will proceed with "several incremental goals. The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq. The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of caliphate. The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq. And the fourth stage: The clash with Israel." These evil men know that a fundamental threat to their aspirations is a democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. They know that given a choice, the Iraqi people will never choose to live in the totalitarian state the extremists hope to establish. And that is why we must not, and we will not, give the enemy victory in Iraq by deserting the Iraqi people.
Given how accurate bin Laden's description of the proposed media war turned out to be, it seems to President Bush that we owe al Qaeda the courtesy of believing what they say now: "History teaches us that underestimating the words of evil and ambitious men is a terrible mistake." Apparently undeterred by the wide-spread outrage that greeted Secretary Rumsfeld's invocation of history, particularly of the precedents of the Cold War and World War II, in his speech to the American Legion last week (more on this topic at the end), Mr. Bush named Lenin and Hitler as bin Laden's ideological forefathers, and noted that they too had provided clear indicators of their plans before they put them into action. Bin Laden has done the same:
Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. The question is: Will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say? America and our coalition partners have made our choice. We're taking the words of the enemy seriously. We're on the offensive, and we will not rest, we will not retreat, and we will not withdraw from the fight, until this threat to civilization has been removed.
Mr. Bush then turned to the new strategy the White House released today. "New" probably isn't the right word, as the President pointed out, this is an extension of the policy first declassified in 2003. Unlike his Democrat critics, the President has no crystal ball, and has found it necessary to develop and modify his strategy in response to the very real and changing enemy he faces. In this section, Mr. Bush discussed the danger posed by Hezbollah, and made what is beginning to sound like the case for war against Iran:
Iran's leaders, who back Hezbollah, have also declared their absolute hostility to America. Last October, Iran's President declared in a speech that some people ask -- in his words -- "whether a world without the United States and Zionism can be achieved. I say that this goal is achievable." Less than three months ago, Iran's President declared to America and other Western powers: "open your eyes and see the fate of pharaoh. If you do not abandon the path of falsehood, your doomed destiny will be annihilation." Less than two months ago, he warned: "The anger of Muslims may reach an explosion point soon. If such a day comes, America and the West should know that the waves of the blast will not remain within the boundaries of our region." He also delivered this message to the American people: "If you would like to have good relations with the Iranian nation in the future, bow down before the greatness of the Iranian nation and surrender. If you don't accept to do this, the Iranian nation will force you to surrender and bow down." America will not bow down to tyrants. The Iranian regime and its terrorist proxies have demonstrated their willingness to kill Americans -- and now the Iranian regime is pursuing nuclear weapons.
Some might consider it chutzpah on Mr. Bush's part to be arguing for yet another war based on the threat of WMD. I mean, hasn't the man learned his lesson? It seems not. It seems that Mr. Bush considers the Iraq war worth the cost to prevent a cataclysmic attack on the US, and the establishment of a stable democracy in that country a vital element in his larger strategy. What's more, he has the gall to suggest that history may judge him favorably for this approach. In his discussion of the threat posed by both Sunni and Shi'ia extremists in the region, he said,
Imagine a world in which they [Islamic extremists] were able to control governments, a world awash with oil and they would use oil resources to punish industrialized nations. And they would use those resources to fuel their radical agenda, and pursue and purchase weapons of mass murder. And armed with nuclear weapons, they would blackmail the free world, and spread their ideologies of hate, and raise a mortal threat to the American people. If we allow them to do this, if we retreat from Iraq, if we don't uphold our duty to support those who are desirous to live in liberty, 50 years from now history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity, and demand to know why we did not act. I'm not going to allow this to happen -- and no future American President can allow it either. America did not seek this global struggle, but we're answering history's call with confidence and a clear strategy.
Mr. Bush is right, all Americans should read "The National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism" (such a better title than "Neo-'Con'"), but in anticipation of that, he provided a five point outline of the strategy:
-First, we're determined to prevent terrorist attacks before they occur.
-Second, we're determined to deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes and terrorists who would use them without hesitation.
-Third, we're determined to deny terrorists the support of outlaw regimes.
-Fourth, we're determined to deny terrorist networks control of any nation, or territory within a nation.
-Fifth, we're working to deny terrorists new recruits, by defeating their hateful ideology and spreading the hope of freedom -- by spreading the hope of freedom across the Middle East.
I defy the Democrats to come up with anything so clear and coherent--not to mention rational and effective. Within the body of the section, I thought this was the money quote:
Thanks to our efforts, there are now three fewer state sponsors of terror in the world than there were on September the 11th, 2001. Afghanistan and Iraq have been transformed from terrorist states into allies in the war on terror. And the nation of Libya has renounced terrorism, and given up its weapons of mass destruction programs, and its nuclear materials and equipment. Over the past five years, we've acted to disrupt the flow of weapons and support from terrorist states to terrorist networks. And we have made clear that any government that chooses to be an ally of terror has also chosen to be an enemy of civilization.
Actually, that's the defining quote of the speech. Our strategy is working. We have results to show. It's hard and it's long, but we're making progress and we have not been hit again since 9/11. Some consider that the wrong metric to use--but I ask you, what metric would you propose? Or perhaps it would be more salient to ask what metric have you concocted that is more favorable to your political prospects?
In conclusion, Mr. Bush returned to the historical analogy that puts this struggle into perspective:
And now, freedom is once again contending with the forces of darkness and tyranny. This time, the battle is unfolding in a new region -- the broader Middle East. This time, we're not waiting for our enemies to gather in strength. This time, we're confronting them before they gain the capacity to inflict unspeakable damage on the world, and we're confronting their hateful ideology before it fully takes root.
Mr. Bush did not come right out and say it--I hope he does at some point this week--but in this quote he implied that the price we have paid in Iraq in terms of blood and treasure is dwarfed by what we paid to defeat a similar threat to civilization in both the Cold War and WWII. Eager opponents of the Iraq war argue that we've been in Iraq longer than we fought WWII or Korea, which is of course utter nonsense. By that barometer, it's not even close--we're not fighting major combat in Iraq three years into the mission, and we still have troops stationed in Germany and Japan. Korea was what you might call the "major combat" phase of the Cold War, but to my knowledge that struggle lasted until 1989. Oh, and nonetheless we still have troops there, too. But what Mr. Bush is really tapping into here is the sense of "if only" that is shared by so many. If only we had listened to Winston Churchill and confronted Hitler before his plans were fully laid. If only we had stood up to Stalin, that evil successor to Lenin's vision, before he could murder tens of millions of his country men and drag us into decades of conflict. If only. I think the President's speech today was a call to take the action that would pre-empt such regrets. If you review his bullet points, they're all about prevention, in the spirit perhaps that an ounce of this is worth a pound of cure.
A final observation on what Mr. Bush did not say today: he did not mention the "loyal opposition." He didn't have to, the clever man--he could leave them to their impotent rantings and ravings and march straight to the high ground. After all, one of his top surrogates had gone out and savaged them a week ago, and completely drawn their fire. Mr. Rumsfeld played a classic bad cop on this one. He's eminently suited for the role--he's always good for a headline, he isn't running for anything this fall, and as White House Press Secretary Tony Snow made abundantly clear today, his job is secure. Mr. Bush, on the other hand, needs to campaign hard for his party over the next two months, and were Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to propose censoring the President, instead of offering up a meaningless no-confidence vote on the Secretary of Defense, on Wednesday, it could be quite uncomfortable for a lot of people.
But of course that's not what Mr. Reid will do tomorrow.
Would it be mean to say that said "loyal opposition" just got their political posteriori handed to them by a supposed lame-duck idiot and an old guy who (literally) had one arm tied behind his back? Yes it would be--that is to Mr. Bush and Mr. Rusmfeld--so I won't say it. I will, however, say this: whatever they're paying Don Rumsfeld, it isn't enough. He does good work. But then again, so do you, Mr. President.