I was just reading over a news account of the president's speech in South Korea in which he said "We will stay in the fight until we have achieved the ... victory that our brave troops have fought for." In the speech, he describes the war as being fought in theaters in Beslan, Bali, Riyadh, Madrid, Iraq -- virtually every place in the world over the last four years where any Muslim fundamentalists have blown anything up.
The real problem though -- and this becomes clear listening to the president, and increasingly from his supporters -- is that the president no longer has any coherent idea of what the war he's fighting amounts to or what victory would look like.
He says we'll fight it out to victory or that "as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." But it's been a really long time since I've heard any coherent plan for what we're trying to do besides slogans like this.
If we're honest I think what the president is saying is this: We're going to stay in Iraq until the place calms down and we can leave with a sense that we've accomplished something.
Isn't that basically the idea?
We're not going to leave as long as the place is a slaughterhouse and a total mess because leaving then will look like we couldn't accomplish what we wanted to accomplish and got run out and thus, in whatever sense, got beat.
I think perceptions of national power and 'credibility' actually mean something. But a sensible fear of losing either was a good reason not to get into this situation in the first place.
And I don't see where, at the moment, we have any real or coherent strategy for calming the place down -- either a military strategy or a political one, though Ivo Daalder thinks there are some signs of progress on the political front.
So at the moment, there's not even a reasoned fight between staying in and getting out. Getting out is the only coherent strategy or approach on the table. That doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. But it is clear and defineable. On the other hand, there is the president, who hasn't put forward any concrete description of what our goals are or any coherent (let alone, a good plan) plan for accomplishing them. Under President Bush's leadership, in Iraq, we've become the national embodiment of the eternal Mr. Micawber, always waiting "for something to turn up."