On the way to work today, I got to hear bits and pieces of Bush's speech concerning the release of the National Security Council's "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." As W's speeches go, it wasn't totally unlistenable (this maybe had more to do with the fact that it was broadcast from a station 150 miles away and intermittently interrupted by norteño strains from just across the river . . . man, I wish I could have listened to the immigration speech under those conditions).
The president--and the NSC, apparently--are taking a new rhetorical approach to the conflict in the wake plummeting support and criticism from political opponents. I found myself thinking that it wasn't bad (relatively): our enemy has now been more carefully defined. We're no longer fighting just "terrorists," which was never true anyway. Now it's a tripartite resistance--"rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists"--and the president avoided suggesting (in the parts of the speech I could hear) that the three groups are working together, which is an old story we no longer really buy, if we ever did, like WMD, mobile weapons labs, Iraqi-sponsored 9-11 plots.
This "three enemy" approach interests me because it seems a deliberate attempt to hang on to the simplistic kind of reasoning that has made the president so attractive to so many Americans while showing the rest of us a bit of sophistication (I mean by that word what you think I mean by it).
It's a foul ball, after all. There is comfort, this holiday season, in drawing such simple, bold lines, even if they don't help us to understand when soldiers can come home. But it's our responsibility to demand of the president that--now that he's willing to discuss the issue--he not be afraid of genuine, careful, analysis. Aren't there some blurred lines? What about our allies, now presumed to have been torturing--and conflating--members of the resistance? He insisted that the terrorists have made this the main site for the "war on terror," that our leaving would grant them a kind of base for operations throughout the middle east. Now that he's got us into this damned mess, sure, he's right. So: what's the actual plan? Ultimately, everyone has already recognized that there isn't one, beyond "stay the course."
That should shake the comforts of simplistic classification.