In his address to the nation last night, President Bush was soft spoken and open to considering advice from others. He showed heartfelt concern for the families of the dead and wounded soldiers. He showed a sense of seriousness and responsibility for his decisions. He showed all of those things his polling told him he should pretend to show, but his underlying message was the same as it has always been, either you are with me, or you are with the terrorists!
As I see it, the defining moment of the speech came when he addressed his critics (with my emphasis added):
I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country -- victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance.
No. There would only be two options if war were a game of football, or a game of cards, where the outcome would eventually result in a clear winner and a loser! But war is not a game with the assurance of a clearly defined result. There is a third option!
A president’s choice to take a country to war is more like risking everyones' money and lives by going to the racetrack day after day and betting them on the same horse, without being able to show the people that the horse is in the race, or that the horse is even alive!
The horse could win and the country would be victorious, or the horse could lose and the country would be defeated. Or the country could find itself in the endless folly of persistently rooting for a dead horse!
Reasonable people whose president chooses to gamble their money and lives in a war should be expected to ask questions about the quality of the horse that they are supporting. If the horse has no chance to win, they would be foolish to allow the president to continue making bets on that horse day after day. On the other hand, Bush would call this a “defeatist” attitude because they aren’t blindly and enthusiastically cheering for what might be a dead horse!
I guess from President Bush’s perspective, there are only two options. If we win the war in Iraq by helping to create a true democracy there, Bush will be remembered as a successful president. If we don’t, he will be remembered as a complete and utter failure who accomplished nothing while costing many thousands of lives and many billions of dollars in the process.