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Is Bush <i>Really</i> Wimping Out on Iraq? Or is the net just out of control?
National Review Online ^ | May 28, 2002 | John O'Sullivan

Posted on 05/28/2002 7:45:14 AM PDT by xsysmgr

The blogoshere is in revolt. The conservative webzines are seething. The cry of "sell-out" rends the air. And a dreadful fear spreads among his conservative and neoconservative supporters that George W. Bush may have shrunk back hesitantly from the historical imperative of invading Iraq and replacing Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. The war on terrorism, they lament, just ended — and with a whimper too.

For almost as bad as the news itself was how it was made known.

Conservatives on the web have been sulphurously hostile to "the Europeans" as anti-American, anti-Semitic, and appeasers of Arab regimes for much of the time since Sept. 11. Such weak sisters, they have argued, are the main obstacle to a strong prosecution of the U.S. war on terrorism. And Bush was seen — mercifully — as free of the WASP establishment's psychological need to get the Europeans on board for any military intervention abroad.

Yet after a speech to the Berlin Bundestag that praised European integration and portrayed the Atlantic Alliance as the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy (contradictory positions as it happens, but more of that later), President Bush told a Berlin press conference that he had no plan to invade Iraq. And the very next day the Washington Post carried stories that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had persuaded an initially aggressive White House and civilian Pentagon to hold off from any such risky adventurism.

Web pundit Andrew Sullivan warned that, if true, this would be "a betrayal of the very security of the American people." NRO's John Derbyshire had predicted even before the speech that Bush would not invade Iraq and, further, that even if he did "the Europeans," including the Brits, would not be fighting alongside the U.S. And the venerable Glenn Reynolds on and others have been linking to an apparently ever-growing list of conservatives anxious that Mr. Bush had contracted a bad dose of Euro-pacifism during his vacation.

These reactions are important. Because the network of webzines and "bloggers" spreads information and opinion very rapidly to like-minded or interested parties, an idea or political movement can develop serious momentum in a day or so. Newspapers, magazines, and television often find themselves scrambling to catch up — which is why they too now have electronic presences on the web. And also why the "Bush Wimps Out on Iraq" mood spread so quickly.

Let us now step back and subject that mood to skeptical criticism.

There is one overwhelming reason why Bush will invade Iraq in the next year or so: He will not be reelected if Saddam Hussein is still ruling in Baghdad in 2004.

That prediction may sound foolhardy when the president's ratings still hover above 70 percent. But the domestic side of the Bush presidency is going badly — especially from the standpoint of his conservative base.

The president's main domestic political achievement is an education bill, virtually written by Sen. Ted Kennedy, from which all Republican initiatives had been stripped. His pandering on steel and lumber tariffs has derailed his free-trade agenda — Congress now looks likely to give him "fast track" negotiating authority on tariffs only with Democrat and protectionist riders attached. All that remains of his early initiative for a Free Trade Area of the Americas is an unpopular proposal to legalize three million illegal Mexican immigrants. Above all, federal spending is completely out of control — and the bill is likely to be presented long before November 2004.

Mr. Bush's current popularity and his reelection chances both depend, therefore, upon his reputation as a bold and successful war leader. If he loses that, he loses all.

With that in mind, reexamine the data that suggests he is wimping out on Iraq.

1. His remark that he has no plan on the table to invade Iraq is doubtless literally true — it is still being constructed in the Pentagon. Even the Washington Post story had quotations from Pentagon insiders to the effect that a decision to invade had been postponed rather than ditched altogether. The political intention behind Bush's assurance was to reassure the Europeans that he would invade Iraq only if Saddam Hussein had not voluntarily surrendered first. That condition should be easy to meet.

2. "The Europeans," contrary to Blogosphere fears, will go along with Bush when he does invade — or at least the British, the Germans, and perhaps even the French will do so. Indeed, I will offer John Derbyshire a bet of $100 that, if Bush does invade Iraq, British forces will be involved in a major way. For Blair's assurances to his Cabinet colleagues that Britain will not take part unless the U.N. agrees perform exactly the same function as Bush's remark about the plan on the table. They are intended to suggest reasonableness — with perhaps the added bonus of misleading Saddam as well.

3. "The Europeans," defined as the peoples of Europe, will not object. For they do not conform to the blogger stereotype of Europeans as anti-American appeasers. Die Welt this week editorialized that " The vast majority of our people . . . are with you in the sober realization that it is our duty to combat tyranny and terrorism with courage and clarity of purpose." And if Bush promises to lead (as he does), they will support the sending of their own troops. Indeed, one Euro-complaint — little noticed over here or among bloggers — is that when their troops do fight and sometime die alongside Americans in foreign climes like Afghanistan, no one in America notices and the evening chat shows carry on claiming that the U.S. is "alone" in the war on terror.

4. But "the Europeans" — defined as the European Union, its institutions like the European Assembly, its leading figures such as Chris Patten, the commissioner in charge of a united European foreign policy, and the bureaucratic "chattering classes" who are the main constituency of European integration — will very likely chafe and mutter on the sidelines. Angry today because they lack either the EU military power to pursue a foreign policy directly, or the authority over member governments to enforce their anti-American instincts on a continent, they will seek to advance towards these powers in the obscure shadows where European constitutional integration is quietly plotted. And the further European integration advances, the more the anti-American of these "Europeans" will determine policy.

Which raises a very interesting question. If the process of European integration is increasingly hostile to American interests and purposes, why did Bush give it such a strong endorsement in his Berlin speech?

Maybe the Blogosphere should ponder that.

— John O'Sullivan is editor-at-large of National Review. This column first appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times. It is reprinted here with the author's permission.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events

1 posted on 05/28/2002 7:45:15 AM PDT by xsysmgr
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To: xsysmgr
President Bush is trying to attract the moderates into voting for his reelection while keeping the conservative base on his side. If he isn't careful he could end up losing them both and become a one term wonder like his father.
2 posted on 05/28/2002 7:48:46 AM PDT by goldstategop
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To: goldstategop
I happen to disagree with O'Sullivan about Bush's domestic standing. Bush has actually been taking issues off the table that the Dems were going to use in 2002. For instance, his actions on steel tariffs didn't go down well with conservatives, but they did go down well with industrial state steelworkers and the Union. Had he chosen not to slap on the tariffs, union voters would have been motivated beyond measure to "send a message" to Bush in the fall. Further, we have a chance to capture many of these union guys for 2004. We have also neutralized the "soccer mom" issue of education for the fall of this year and beyond.

Besides, when you have an obstructionist like Tom Daschle holding the reins of power in the Senate, you tend to have problems getting conservative legislation through the Senate.

But O'Sullivan is dead on about leaving Saddam in power. He won't be there in 2004. There is more at stake than just Bush's reelection. Saddam is working on a nuclear capability, and he must be stopped. Besides, the conquest of the Iraqi regime will alter the strategic balance in the Middle East away from militant Islam and the Rejectionist Front states and towards the United States.

For these reasons alone, we're going to Baghdad.

Be Seeing You,


3 posted on 05/28/2002 8:14:21 AM PDT by section9
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To: xsysmgr
IMHO, it as a pretty reasonable development - the West is simply unable to run Muslim world the way it run Occupied Germany and Japan. So, the only option is to isolate them and let them to their own devices. And when there is a need to strike we have do just that (a-la Lybia).

Also, we have to become at least neutral vs. destabilization of various unfriendly Arab regimes (from Saudies to Egypt and Iran) - let them be busy with sorting their internal differences for the next 100 years.

We have natural allies (Israel, Russia, Serbia) who will contribute a lot to our cause while sorting out their own problems, we have to stop holding their hands tied.

There is simply no need to do anything big about Iraq now - it is a bad thing politically, it is unsustainable in the long run and if there is a need to destroy facilities, Israel will do it with a great pleasure.

4 posted on 05/28/2002 8:41:03 AM PDT by alex
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