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The one thing Bush gets right

Posted by Richard on October 6, 2005

I’ve been less than pleased with the President on a number of fronts lately: the Mier nomination, the profligate response to Katrina, the inept handling of Social Security reform, the continuing failure to exercise any fiscal discipline on any issue at any time, …

But Bush’s speech Thursday to supporters of the National Endowment for Democracy reminded me again of why 2004 was the first time I voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1972. George W. Bush gets it regarding the war being waged against us. And right now, that trumps everything else in my book.

Bush understands that we didn’t start this war, that Iraq is merely a battlefield in the war, and that our only options are to fight the war now, to fight it later under more difficult circumstances, or to surrender our culture, values, and way of life.

This speech may be his best ever on this subject, and I recommend that you read the whole thing. Better yet, watch the video available at that link — I heard the speech on the Hugh Hewitt show, and it was delivered with intensity and conviction. But I’ll point out a few key highlights.

Unlike in the past, this time Bush clearly and unambiguously described who we’re fighting. It’s not terrorism — that’s a tactic — it’s a specific group of people who have a specific ideology and goals (emphasis added throughout):

The images and experience of September the 11th are unique for Americans. Yet the evil of that morning has reappeared on other days, in other places — in Mombasa, and Casablanca, and Riyadh, and Jakarta, and Istanbul, and Madrid, and Beslan, and Taba, and Netanya, and Baghdad, and elsewhere. In the past few months, we’ve seen a new terror offensive with attacks on London, and Sharm el-Sheikh, and a deadly bombing in Bali once again. All these separate images of destruction and suffering that we see on the news can seem like random and isolated acts of madness; innocent men and women and children have died simply because they boarded the wrong train, or worked in the wrong building, or checked into the wrong hotel. Yet while the killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks serve a clear and focused ideology, a set of beliefs and goals that are evil, but not insane.

Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it’s called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom.

Bush warned against failing to take the threat of this movement seriously:

Some might be tempted to dismiss these goals as fanatical or extreme. Well, they are fanatical and extreme — and they should not be dismissed. Our enemy is utterly committed. As Zarqawi has vowed, "We will either achieve victory over the human race or we will pass to the eternal life." And the civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot, consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history. Evil men, obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience, must be taken very seriously — and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.

He rejected forcefully the idea that we’re to blame:

The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse. …

Over the years these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence — the Israeli presence on the West Bank, or the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, or the defeat of the Taliban, or the Crusades of a thousand years ago. In fact, we’re not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We’re facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of the killers — and no concession, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder.

He talked at length about the nature of the enemy, making a number of comparisons to the great totalitarian threat of the late 20th century, including these:

… Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses. Bin Laden says his own role is to tell Muslims, quote, "what is good for them and what is not." And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and suicide bombers. He assures them that his — that this is the road to paradise — though he never offers to go along for the ride.
… 
Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy pursues totalitarian aims. Its leaders pretend to be an aggrieved party, representing the powerless against imperial enemies. In truth they have endless ambitions of imperial domination, and they wish to make everyone powerless except themselves. Under their rule, they have banned books, and desecrated historical monuments, and brutalized women. They seek to end dissent in every form, and to control every aspect of life, and to rule the soul, itself. While promising a future of justice and holiness, the terrorists are preparing for a future of oppression and misery.

Bush then outlined at length what we have done and are doing to combat this enemy, from anti-terrorist activities to direct military action to encouraging the growth of democracy and freedom in the Middle East. He described the five elements of his strategy for dealing with this enemy:

  • Disrupt terrorist activities and prevent terrorist attacks before they occur.
  • Deny WMDs to outlaw regimes and their terrorist allies.
  • Block outlaw regimes such as Syria and Iran from providing support and sanctuary.
  • Prevent the terrorists from gaining control of any country, thus denying them a home base and "launching pad."
  • Long-term, dry up terrorist recruiting "by replacing hatred and resentment with democracy and hope across the broader Middle East."

This passage from his description of the first element apparently set off quite a reaction in the mainstream media:

Overall, the United States and our partners have disrupted at least ten serious al Qaeda terrorist plots since September the 11th, including three al Qaeda plots to attack inside the United States. We’ve stopped at least five more al Qaeda efforts to case targets in the United States, or infiltrate operatives into our country.

The press reacted to this with suspicion, demanding evidence of these foiled plots and questioning whether these claims could be substantiated. That’s the same press, remember, that reported unquestioningly all the breathless claims of chaos and mayhem from New Orleans’ mayor and police chief, including stories of hundreds of dead bodies in the Superdome and babies being raped. I guess the rule for the MSM is simple: if it reflects poorly on this administration, it’s believable; if it reflects well on this administration, it’s suspect.

Bush spent the most time on the fourth and fifth elements, and it’s in the context of those that he discussed Iraq. He argued for realism about the difficulties we face, but optimism about the future:

The terrorists are as brutal an enemy as we’ve ever faced. They’re unconstrained by any notion of our common humanity, or by the rules of warfare. No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead, nor should they overlook the advantages we bring to this fight.

Some observers look at the job ahead and adopt a self-defeating pessimism. It is not justified. With every random bombing and with every funeral of a child, it becomes more clear that the extremists are not patriots, or resistance fighters — they are murderers at war with the Iraqi people, themselves.

In contrast, the elected leaders of Iraq are proving to be strong and steadfast. By any standard or precedent of history, Iraq has made incredible political progress — from tyranny, to liberation, to national elections, to the writing of a constitution, in the space of two-and-a-half years. With our help, the Iraqi military is gaining new capabilities and new confidence with every passing month. At the time of our Fallujah operations 11 months ago, there were only a few Iraqi army battalions in combat. Today there are more than 80 Iraqi army battalions fighting the insurgency alongside our forces. Progress isn’t easy, but it is steady. And no fair-minded person should ignore, deny, or dismiss the achievements of the Iraqi people.
… 
As Americans, we believe that people everywhere — everywhere — prefer freedom to slavery, and that liberty, once chosen, improves the lives of all. And so we’re confident, as our coalition and the Iraqi people each do their part, Iraqi democracy will succeed.

Bush spoke at length about the fifth point, and his commitment to "the transformational power of liberty" remains solid. He singled out Egypt and Saudi Arabia as "friends" whom we’re encouraging to reform and to "respect the rights and choices of their own people." He pointedly added:  

… We’re standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes, because we know that the dissidents of today will be the democratic leaders of tomorrow. We’re making our case through public diplomacy, stating clearly and confidently our belief in self-determination, and the rule of law, and religious freedom, and equal rights for women, beliefs that are right and true in every land, and in every culture.

Bush also noted that a vital part of confronting Islamic radicalism must come from within the Islamic world. He spoke approvingly of Muslim scholars and imams who’ve condemned terrorism and issued a challenge to those who haven’t:

… The time has come for all responsible Islamic leaders to join in denouncing an ideology that exploits Islam for political ends, and defiles a noble faith.

Bush closed, as he so often does, with a restatement of his commitment to and confidence in liberty:

Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision — and they end up alienating decent people across the globe. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure — until those societies collapse in corruption and decay. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that free men and women are weak and decadent — until the day that free men and women defeat them.

We don’t know the course of our own struggle — the course our own struggle will take — or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice. We do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history. And we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail.

I’ll say again what I said earlier: We didn’t start this war, Iraq is merely a battlefield in the war, and our only options are to fight the war now, to fight it later under more difficult circumstances, or to surrender our culture, values, and way of life.

If you get that, you understand why I still support this president.

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4 Responses to “The one thing Bush gets right”

  1. Everyman said

    Brilliant analysis on the President’s speech and dead on! I get it now and have always gotten it. This is about protecting our domestic tranquility for the future.

  2. Anonymous said

    Thanks, Everyman, I appreciate your kind words.

  3. Ezzie said

    Excellent analysis. You’re right, interesting how we both focused on different passages. I’m planning on writing on the second half of the speech later, I’ll put in a link for yours.

  4. Animal said

    The speech was more BUllSHit. Why must he keep milking/exploiting 9/11? I think we all know the answer to that: the Bush presidency is a miserable failure.

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