Bush is in trouble – and it is entirely his own fault. Perhaps it is just politics, but from the sounds and history of John Kerry, I have very little faith in the democratic front-runner’s resolve to win the war on terror. He may be a war hero, but it was not long after his service that he was cavorting around with the traitor Jane Fonda. Never mind his desire to gut the intelligence budget after 911. His populist campaign tactics are disturbing, considering his old penchant to pull out the “Do you even know who I am?” line. However, this column is not about Kerry’s potential, but rather Bush’s self-inflicted potential demise.
The greatest mistake president Bush made when the conflict with Iraq was escalating was letting the left frame the terms of the Iraq argument. The mantra out of the Anti-Bush camp is “Where are the WMDs?” Yes, Clinton, Bush, Kerry and the rest of the Congress saw the same intelligence reports and were equally confident that the weapons everyone talked about truly existed. I honestly believe Bush is shocked that the stockpiles have yet to be found.
At the time, the threat of Saddam holding WMDs seemed like the easiest way to generate public support for an action the administration knew was necessary. Weapons of Mass Destruction in the hands of a dictator who has killed a million of his own people can scare the living hell out of people. I suppose the administration believes it would be much harder to explain what stabilization in the Middle East would mean for our national defense. Introducing freedom to a formerly oppressed country smack in the heart of the most dangerous region in the world will initiate a domino effect of freedom into neighboring countries that our guns never could achieve.
By not honestly shaping the debate around the greater picture (they might have tried, but they certainly failed), Bush has painted himself into a corner into which he need not be – he unknowingly lost a battle to the media who was eager to shape the issue in minds of the American public solely on WMDs. Now that there are questions about the intelligence regarding the number and whereabouts of these weapons, the war’s opponents are given a moral stature they do not deserve.
This is a complete PR failure and it will be a monumental challenge to convince the fence sitters who will decide this election that we were correct in eliminating the Saddam and the Bathist power structure. A gradual spin is already in the works, as witnessed on this Sunday’s Meet the Press, but I was not impressed.
Bush probably underestimated the American public. He had a responsibility to reveal the true motivations of his administration – I think he had the ability to convince us during the run-up to Iraq that we were justified in taking out Saddam, with the United Nations support or not. My approach would have played off Bush’s no nonsense style, and I would have openly discussed the long-term goals making sure that the existence of WMDs were simply a part of the equation – I think the Post-911 American public had the stomach for this had they known the facts.
This is the tune the administration should have been singing from day one:
"Saddam is a dangerous individual - he may or may not have WMDs, but he is certainly trying to acquire them. We know he has used them against his own people and would not hesitate to put them in the hands of those that would use them against Americans. In addition, Syria and Iran are both trying to obtain nuclear weapons – a potential disaster for world peace. It is imperative that we establish a blueprint for liberty in the Middle East and also have military forces in striking range of the Iran and Syria. In other words, we need to scare the living hell out of their governments so they give up their plans to acquire these weapons. WMDs in the hands of fascists is a disaster waiting to happen, and we have an obligation to protect the United States. Freeing Iraq is the first step in stabilizing the Middle East to eliminate the lifeblood of the terrorist networks”
Behind closed doors, this is the goal of the administration. Nevertheless, the truth is so politically incorrect in the eyes of some, that regardless of this being a matter of life and death, the administration felt they had to bow to common politics. They are currently ruing that decision, and I hope the spin establishes an approach of complete honesty – because regardless of what Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder, or the anti-peace peace activists spout out, the cause is just.