Last week, before the president’s prime time news conference, the famous, even notorious, pollster, Dick Morris, warned that “Americans are not prepared to sacrifice their sons and daughters to assure democracy in Iraq.”
The president’s comments––“I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is not this country’s gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty’s gift to every man and woman in this world”—indicate that bloody sacrifice is just what Bush is asking for in saying he would not waver from his support of freedom for Iraq.
Dick Morris’s caution is now echoed by some hawks who supported the invasion of Iraq as an initiative that is in America’s national interest and will deter terrorism. Stratfor.com, the website of a private foreign policy consulting firm, has made its disappointment with George W. Bush freely available as a “sample” reading for non-subscribers. According to the website, “the capture” of Iraq would “exert pressure on regimes that were in some way enablers of al Qaeda.” Stratfor puts this rationale forward publicly as a “more plausible, persuasive and defensible” than the White House’s public explanations.
In bolstering the public for the ongoing military slog in Iraq, Bush relied on “platitudes,” according to Stratfor, and “offered “an explanation that is only superficially plausible, and a price that appears to be excessive, given the stated goal.”
In Stratfor’s view, there are important political consequences to Bush’s explanation––“he is making an outstanding attempt to lose” the election by adopting “a two-tier policy: a complex and nearly hidden strategic plan and a superficial public presentation.”
Voters, come election day, will ratify the administration’s policy only if the invasion’s links to the war against terrorism are made clear, the group argues. Morris made the same point as a pollster.
Stratfor believes the president made a serious mistake in not outlining his direct approach to the Iraqi quagmire because democracy is unlikely to take root in Iraq. The United States is negotiating with the Sunnis, who comprise 40 percent of Iraq’s Muslim population and are centered in Fallujah, scene of the invasion’s most violent resistance, as well as with various Shiite factions in Najaf and elsewhere, in order to head off a full fledged two-front insurgency. This represents “a huge change” in administration thinking.
In March, “the idea that the United States needed to negotiate anything was unthinkable.” Stratfor warns that “democracy in Iraq is not really compatible with the deals that are going to have to be cut,” i.e., the warlords that will need to be accommodated in order to keep militias, such as that led by the young cleric Moktada al-Sadr, from ambushing American troops, are not interested in a democracy, but in a fundamentalist theocracy, like that in Iran.
The president faces “a massive political crisis. Democracy––by any definition that the American public can recognize––is not coming to Iraq anytime soon. If that is the mark of success, Bush’s only hope is that he won’t be kept to a tight timetable,” Stratfor maintains.
To make matters worse, in his news conference Bush “framed the coming presidential election as basically a referendum on his policy in Iraq.” But Stratfor warns “the less that policy is understood, and the more Iraq appears uncontrollable, the more vulnerable Bush will be to charges that the Iraq war was unjustified, and that it is a distraction from the wider war––which the American electorate better understands and widely supports.”
Clearly, the president’s news conference failed to satisfy skeptics in his own camp. Is it any wonder that John Kerry is calling the administration policy “stunningly ineffective” and a “tragedy of errors?”
Even some conservative Republicans are becoming vocal critics. Richard Viguerie, a right-wing direct mail guru, told The New York Times, “It doesn’t look like the White House is as astute as we thought they were.”
The Iraq war in 2004 could be as divisive to the GOP as the Vietnam War was to the Democrats in 1968. That time, the incumbent Democrats were booted.