Good morning, fellow seekers of wisdom and truth.
In Philadelphia Monday, President Bush (Here’s the text off the White House website) portrayed Thursday’s elections as the culmination of the creation of a sovereign, elected, full-term Iraqi government. (Here’s a brief timeline of the steps along this path).
As in the previous two speeches that constitute Bush’s answer to Iraq war critics, the president was more willing than he used to be to acknowledge past mistakes in the U.S. management of post-Saddam Iraq. And he continued his recent, much more accurate description of the elements of the insurgency, contrary to his earlier habit of describing them all as terrorists.
While acknowledging that “this week’s elections won’t be perfect, and a successful vote is not the end of the process” Bush did make the fairly grand prediction that “the year 2005 will be recorded as a turning point in the history of Iraq, the history of the Middle East, and the history of freedom.”
Similarities between Philadelphia 1776 and Baghdad 2005?
Speaking in Philadelphia, Bush went to some lengths to compare Iraq now with the United States during the period from the Declaration of Independence (signed in Philly, 1776) to the ratification of the Constitution (drafted in Philly, 1787.)
Historical analogies are always tricky. What do you think of that one?
Bush repeated the definition of what will constitute victory in Iraq: “Victory will be achieved when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq’s democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation.”
For those wondering whether Bush might be planning to declare victory and start the withdrawal after Thursday, or at least in time for the 2006 midterm elections, his language Monday hinted otherwise: “Oh, I know some fear the possibility that Iraq could break apart and fall into a civil war. I don’t believe these fears are justified. They’re not justified so long as we do not abandon the Iraqi people in their hour of need.”
He repeated the formulation that: “As the Iraqi security forces stand up, coalition forces can stand down. And when victory is achieved, our troops will then return home with the honor they have earned.”
Does that mean all the troops?
For those wondering whether Bush is willing to make a commitment that the U.S. does not seek long-term military bases in Iraq, Bush disclosed that, while the U.S. formerly had about 90 bases in Iraq, “we’ve closed about 40 — or turned over — closed or turned over 40 of those bases to the Iraqis. In other words, our profile is beginning to move back as the Iraqis get trained up.”
And he said: “We are working to build capable and effective Iraqi security forces, so they can take the lead in the fight, and eventually take responsibility for the safety and security of their citizens without major foreign assistance.”
Hmm. That third-to-last word, “major” assistance. And that talk of lowering our profile. Might that leave an opening for long-term U.S. bases?
Michael Rubin thinks that’s the plan. See my interview with him.
Rubin said that the idea of getting the U.S. military completely out of Iraq is only important to the American left, but that Iraqis don’t really object to long-term U.S. bases, if they are outside the Iraqi cities.
Some of the neo-cons made clear years ago that getting bases in Iraq was part of what would make toppling Saddam worth it for the U.S. Do you agree that having long-term U.S. military bases in Iraq is at least part of what would make the war worth it? Do you believe that was part of the administration’s reasoning from the beginning?