What a difference a year makes. In his State of the Union Address last night, President George W. Bush was, as expected, conciliatory - almost sheepish. Where last year he lead off with what he thought was his strength, Iraq and the “War on Terrorism,” this year he did not bring it up until after more than 3,000 words into his address. It was, interestingly enough, a placeholder Hurricane Katrina held in his address last year. The "failed policy slot," I guess. He ultimately acknowledged that it is “not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we’re in.” Last year those opposing the president’s policies were labeled “isolationists,” this year he is begging us to “give it a chance to work.”
It’s been more than three years. More than 3000 of our brave men and women have been killed and thousands more maimed. His “new way forward” is nothing new. This war has been, from the start, ill advised and mismanaged. I’ll not waste anymore time on an address that was entirely predictable and luke warm save this: His acknowledgment of “Madam Speaker” Nancy Pelosi was classy even if it was necessary and proper. Acknowledging her father’s service in the House a generation earlier was a nice touch.
Let’s now turn to an address that contained some real substance, the Democratic Response.
Rather than run through the Democratic Party platform plank by plank, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., chose “two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction.” He addressed the economy first, pointing out that although certain specific indicators show a healthy economy, other broader benchmarks exemplify the severe disparity in the distribution of wealth. He fears “the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table.” Although he scored high marks on his criticism of the administration’s economic policies, he saved the big guns for his second “area of contention.”
Senator Webb is a military man. His family has served with honor for three generations in three different wars, including this one. Ironically, the war Webb and his brother served in was equally controversial and has some ironic historic parallels to this current war - a war Webb’s own son is fighting at this very moment. Although Webb didn't say it, I will - it's the sort of military duty our president and vice president conveniently avoided. He presented his audience with a photo of his father while serving in Germany during World War II. What he said following the introduction of his and his family’s military background (he left out far more than he included - he was not boasting) was delivered in grim monotones… he was - angry.
“Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues - those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death - we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm's way.
We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us - sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.
The president took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the Army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable - and predicted - disarray that has followed.
The war's costs to our nation have been staggering.
The damage to our reputation around the world.
The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism.
And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.”
There’s nothing more I can add. Webb nailed it - and he’s right.
"The lost opportunities to defeat terrorism"? Mike do you honestly feel that there is a better way to fight terrorism than taking the fight to them?
I think taking the fight to the terrorists is a good idea... It's just that they weren't in Iraq before we went there. I do believe that's what Webb is referring to.
Some will say that it doesn't matter how the situation developed, that leaving "precipitously" would leave a vacuum that would likely be filled with extremist factions. I don't dispute this - our extrication from the situation needs to be carefully planned. What Webb is trying to point out is that how the situation developed (or disintegrated) is of paramount importance when it comes to who will devise the strategy.
Should it come from one who has miscalculated, mismanaged and misinterpreted pretty much everything from the start, or should it be devised by the people Webb so clearly enumerated that do understand the situation?
There were no WMDs - and we knew it.
There were no nukes - and we knew it.
Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 - and we knew it.
There was no immediate threat to our national security from Iraq - and we knew it.
Now there is. Are we to allow the same person who got us into this mess orchestrate an escalation to get us out?
I think not, and more and more Republicans - greatly respected Republicans don't think so either.
One of the problems and, maybe the biggest, was we never had an exit strategy. Great post Mr. A. With so many fallen heros, we really need to stay on it and to really be a part of this county as you are just by posting things like this!!
Good point made by Webb, that the military must be able to trust the judgement of the leaders. When that trust has been repeatedly proven mis-placed, that fact can't be ignored! Poor judgement shouldnt be tolerated any longer!
Like I said at my blog, I'm not a Democrat (not a Republican either - thank God!). But if I were a Democrat, I'd have been a proud Democrat watching Senator Webb!
Good post, Mike!
Well written, as always, my dear. I've written on the same subject both yesterday and today. There may be some things in there that you don't know/haven't read yet.
Hello, Michele sent me!
Great writing, I like this place. Think I'll stick around a bit and wander!
well written....... I also like your rebuttal to the comments here.
Mike your arguments are well made (as always). I see that we disagree in some of our political views but without a doubt you are one of the most well-spoken and knowledgeable people I've met.
My hat off to you Sir....
Here From Micheles,
Great post! I agreed with it all. I'm not a registered Democrat, (Being born in MA I'm a commmited Independent) But I live in VA & I voted for Webb & was very proud of him!
Oh, you know that I was half-kidding about not watching the SOTU. I would like to have seen Nancy Pelosi, but I literally cannot stomach watching Bush speak.
Thank you Sarch. Although there are some areas in which we might not agree, we can do so respectfully. Indeed, if everyone thought as I did, the world would be a boring (and slightly twisted) place.
It's been said that one should never discuss politics and religion. I say that as long as it is a discussion, nothing should be off limits. I try never to be personally vested in a philosophy - that way I'm never offended. I simply state my case - that's all.
No matter if we stay longer or go quickly, Iraq is going to be messed up. We don't have enough troops in Iraq now to "get the Job done" even if we knew how to get it done. I am sure our involvement in Iraq will last many more years than anyone think it will. Maybe we will do better next time, In Iran.
(Oh, I hope that was a joke)
Being from the UK, our Prime Minister took our country into the war with the US. I know someone who is going to Iraq soon to fight. As you say, the cost has been staggering and look at the mess that has been made.
I peronally think the worls is a far less stable and less safe place as a result.
Here from Michele's.
Hi, Michele sent me. Being from UK, I didn't see the State Of the Union Address but I get the feeling from reading the post that the spin-doctors have been busy trying to make things look better than they are. We get the same here and quite frankly I'm sick of it. When is somebody going to tell the truth and take the blame for their F%#K ups. Both US & UK armies were steamrollered into this war for the sake of securing OIL reserves. Why don't the governments own up to this fact and try to play nice?
Michele sent me.
Webb is from my state, and I am completely ashamed to say that.
Sorry, but I had a job and would probably be considered RICH by the Democrats. Over one third of my pay went to taxes... for what? Democrat Byrds bridges and roads in West Virginia, or to pay for welfare for people who drive better cars than I do. I made to much for my daughter to get financial aid for college but not enough to pay the college bill. And now they want to raise my taxes? What a pile of crap!
I think I'll stay out of this one. I hate politics and I didn't actually watch the speech. Sounds like you feel strongly about it.
What a great country we live in that we can speak our minds!
Michele sent me here today. Hope you're having a great day!
I am not saying that Webb's view or the Democratic Party's platform regarding the economy is the way to go. If what you're talking about is the traditional view of the "tax and spend" liberal, then I agree with you absolutely.
I'm for smaller government generally and at all levels. I think taxes can and should be lower and that this is completely realistic if only our government would stop spending our money like it's not theirs. The amount of money government at all levels wastes is staggering - and the billions spent in Iraq are but one example.
I'm issue driven. On the economy, my view of Webb's statement is neutral, however, when it come to Iraq - he is right on the mark - in my humble opinion.
Hi Mike! I'm flustered because I said Thunper when I should have said Mr Althouse. Think it's past my bedtime:)
Here from Michelle of course!
His actions don't meet the normal definition of treason which means that perhaps we need a new definition. Avoiding military service while at the same time getting jet pilot training at public expense was just the first act in a lifetime of using position to avoid responsibility while at the same time using his position to lap up as much gravy as possible. Cheney too, for that matter.
Michele sent me to see you, Mike. Your counterargument to Sarch is great.
ironically with Baghdad bathed in GSM and GPS it is still difficult to really understand what is happening.
The strategists coldly set a timetable for an invasion measured in days, balancing economics and media interest.
We now see the ragged bloody consequence of implementation driven by oil and business agendas with politicos spinning whilst they look for bolt holes.
I'm not sure if you know this but the "Democratic Powers That Be" had a statement prepared for Webb to deliver which he promptly threw away in favor of his own! My bosses friend is the head of the local dems so I get all the inside info! He has a hard job in this part of VA. This area is overflowing with bang-the-drum-stay-the-course republicans!
Webb came to our little one stoplight town when he was campaigning in October, so I got to see him and write about him. He's of that independent Scots Irish stock that so many are around here (Virginia). We were whooping and hollering in our house when he gave his rebuttal. Such a relief when you feel like you're finally being represented.
With the war on Iraq, I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. In some respects, I think that the ousting af Saddam was necessary. He had a lot of potential to cause greater harm, and I can't be sorry that he is gone. I can be sorry, however, for all the men and women who won;t come home to see their families. I married a Marine, and by the grace of God, he was not deployed or recalled. I don't know how I got so lucky, but I'm good with it. I cannot imagine losing my loved one for something that started out well-intentioned enough, but along the way just lost it's purpose/effect.
Here from Michele's, with a lot to think about as I head to bed!
Hi Mike. I'm so glad to see you've once again touched nerves and provoked thought with this wonderfully written piece.
I've just bought "Fiasco" by Thomas E. Ricks. And after just 2 chapters, my eyes are opening wider to the merry dance that led Bush to invade Iraq, against all advise from saner, more experienced players than himself. Interesting article this, Mike, thanks for writing it.
*waves* - here from Michelle!
PS... good luck with your final semester.
It sounds to me like Senator Webb is an intelligent and knowledgeable man with a good grasp of the reality of the situation.
Michele sent mne back.
...very well said...bravo..
Mr.Althouse, I applaud you. I don't wax political in my blog, but appreciate it when those who do, do so with such eloquence.
Michele sent me this morning.
Well said... Going to snoop around a bit...
Michele sent me ; have a great weekend !
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