Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Secret Bush Administration Memorandum

New York Times Reveals Bush Administration’s Behind the Scenes Communications on the War in Iraq

The following link will take you to the full article, which I’ve teased below, that appears in today’s New York Times, purporting to expose a secret Bush administration memorandum about the Iraq war: Text of the National Security Adviser's Memorandum on the Political Situation in Iraq - New York Times: Published: November 29, 2006

Following is the beginning of a Nov. 8 memorandum prepared for cabinet-level officials by Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, and his aides on the National Security Council. The five-page document, classified secret, was read and transcribed by The New York Times.

We returned from Iraq convinced we need to determine if Prime Minister Maliki is both willing and able to rise above the sectarian agendas being promoted by others. Do we and Prime Minister Maliki share the same vision for Iraq? If so, is he able to curb those who seek Shia hegemony or the reassertion of Sunni power? The answers to these questions are key in determining whether we have the right strategy in Iraq.

You can go to the above link to read the full article. It is fascinating.

Bush’s Big Mistake

To me, this secret memorandum reveals why the Bush administration has failed miserably in explaining the Iraq war to the American people. The memorandum reveals an honest, sophisticated assessment of the situation in Iraq. This is the kind of analysis I have been trying to conduct on my blog. It is also the kind of thinking my commenters have been positing, from the left and right. I believe the American people are adult enough, and sophisticated enough, to hear these kinds of thoughts and considerations.

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Instead of speaking the truth, as is the mission of this blog, the President continues to pronounce his talking points, like “Stay the course,” “We’re fighting for freedom,” and “We promise not to withdraw until the mission is accomplished.”

I don’t discount the legitimate need for slogans, propaganda, continued repetition, and so on. Just because the Nazis used propaganda successfully, and the Soviet Union, and North Korea et al, doesn’t mean it isn’t a good tool for democracy too. We used it successfully in this country during WWII. I’m not opposed to it, when it’s for a good cause.

On the other hand, I do believe the American people are more mature than politicians imagine. Yes, you can win them over with the hateful mantras of the left—which is exactly what happened in the last election. The reason these mantras worked, though, was that voters had no alternative. Bush has never explained to Americans, as mature adults, what is really going on in the world, and especially in Iraq. Bush has never been an articulate champion of conservative values.

Bush’s Theory of Politics

Bush, like a lot of other politicians, believes that the main function of a president is to be a diplomat. Diplomats are tight-lipped. They are aware of every word they speak; they offend no one; they are eternally positive; at the worst they are guarded. They reveal nothing when they open their mouths.

Bush is the supreme diplomat. He does this with the American people too. He is ultra-careful about what he says, for example, about Iraq.

Beyond being a diplomat, Bush tries also to be a champion of his causes, which are, among others: the war in Iraq; democracy in the Middle East; open borders with Mexico; tax cuts; and so on. In being a champion of causes, he is making arguments. He is communicating to sell his point of view. He is acting like a debater, taking one side of an issue and promoting it, stacking all the evidence to make the sale. He wants to win the war in Iraq, and get the American people on his side in this goal, so he pushes his selling points at all times, like a good life insurance salesman. He is our cheerleader-in-chief.

The Problem

I believe an American president needs to be a diplomat, yes, and a champion of causes, and a cheerleader; but he or she needs to be more than this. Like Ronald Reagan, or John F. Kennedy, or Franklin D. Roosevelt, he also needs to be a communicator.

I remember taking a course on military history when I was a student at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. The professor, a military man, said that the American soldier is unlike soldiers from totalitarian nations, in one way at least. In totalitarian nations, the commanders give orders and the soldiers execute them, period. The professor said that you can do this with American soldiers too, and get the same results. He said, though, that you can get even better results if you explain to your soldiers the reason for the orders. What are they fighting for? What is the mission? What are the risks and ways to handle them? What is the strategic situation? What are the goals, signposts, exit strategies, and so on?

Bush has done a miserable job of explaining the situation in Iraq. By limiting himself to the roles of diplomat and cheerleader-in-chief, he has failed to engage the American public in this vital war effort.

Lessons of the Memorandum

First, I think that the New York Times has done it again—come close to being treasonous in a time of war, revealing secret conversations about an issue of national security.

On the other hand, I don’t care. I’m glad the memorandum got out. It finally shows me what I’ve suspected all along—that there is sophisticated thinking going on about the Iraq war in the Bush administration. Bush’s big blunder, in my opinion, is hiding this kind of thinking from the American public. The public is scratching their heads, wondering if they’ve got a moron for a president. I’ve known that he is a bright man in many ways, despite his Bushism’s and his inability to communicate. He has made the biggest mistake of his presidency, however, in being tight-lipped about the complexities of this war, and about many other things.

If Bush ever wants the American people to understand why we are in Iraq, what to expect, and what will be the sacrifice, he needs to open up and become also another great communicator, like Ronald Reagan, JFK, and FDR. I know he, and most in the public, do not believe that he has it in him to communicate in this way, but I’ve seen him do it in some of his best speeches. He needs to trust the American people that they can understand the complexities he will explain.

If he ever does this, which I doubt he will—some people will begin to listen to what he says, trust what he says, and begin to have faith in him again.

Yes, the American people have underestimated George Bush; he is no idiot. Winning the American presidency twice, and running the country for eight years is impossible for an idiot. But George Bush has also underestimated the American people; they are far more mature and sophisticated than he imagines. They can handle the truth. They can understand the complexities.

Start telling the whole truth, Mr. President. Open up. Lay it out for us, in all its detail and uncertainty. Step out of your roles as diplomat and cheerleader-in-chief sometimes to become also the great communicator. Your poll numbers will rise, and you might get the public support for your worldview that you’ve always craved. This way, you can secure your legacy. Plus, this will squash the effect of the moronic left. They will be the ones, then, left with the simple pronouncements without substance.


(*Wikipedia is always my source unless indicated.)

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