May 7, 2004

The long game...

Alan Sullivan writes:

...Whatever his motives or ideology, [Paul] Reynolds is right to observe that the fruits of last year's US victory have begun to rot. I am convinced that the pious president cannot bear to behold the inherently pernicious attributes of Islam. Nor can he bring himself to break with the dictators and sheiks upon whom the US has based its policies for so long. He is caught again on the flypaper of his own indecision, as he was before the war. Recall how he wavered, how he clung to the hope of avoiding conflict via the UN? Only the combat itself afforded a brief time of clear, decisive action. Bush left the conduct of the war to his battlefield commanders, and they handed him a triumph that he seems incapable of grasping.
I'm wondering if Alan isn't making the mistake of expecting the war to run on Internet Time? (Or whatever that term is, for things going seven times as fast as normal life?)

We've gone through a certain kind of Blogosphere Bush-panic several times now, with bloggers tearing their hair because Bush is "wavering," "gone soft," "lost focus," been captured by the State Department, etc. And yet the caravan continued to move on.

"Recall how he wavered, how he clung to the hope of avoiding conflict via the UN?" Frankly Alan, I don't recall anything of the sort. I recall a long battle to get the UN to support us in removing Saddam. It was the UN that was squirming and twisting to avoid conflict. We wanted to fight, and eventually we did. It was a prolonged torment at the time, and Bill Quick rattled my nerves at least weekly by announcing that he had given up hope, that we were doomed, that Bush had wimped out, and nothing would happen. Turns out, not so.

I think it's more accurate to view our war as something like the game of poker, a game which Bush is said to be very good at. A good player wins respect slowly, proving that he doesn't bluff with poor cards. So that when the time comes to really bluff, he's believed, and his force is multiplied...

America has tried way too many weak bluffs in recent decades. We got called in Vietnam, and we've been behind ever since. One of our biggest lacks has been credibility. Osama bin Laden said just exactly that many times. He said we wouldn't stick, that we wouldn't take casualties.

Looked at that way, our difficulties in Iraq are all to the good. By sticking steadily, even ploddingly, to the task despite all, we are earning credibility. Assuredly a lot of the rogue nations and problem dictators of the world are watching carefully. They've figured out that Bush won't repeat Mogadishu, but will the Americans stick through long frustrating bloody months, even years? They are wondering if slow attrition is a tactic to consider using. Will it break us, or is it just another form of suicide?

And those same guys are watching the comparable savage and treacherous attacks Bush is enduring at home. They are wondering if the Democrats are allies to cultivate, or frenzied losers on the way down. So in the same sense our difficulties at home are for the good. The banditti of the world see Bush attacked almost weekly. It's becoming an almost ludicrous series of assaults. Yet he doesn't seem much weakened! And his attackers are looking neither strong nor confident.

I suspect that our poker playing President is planning his game years ahead. Without too many bluffs or fast flashy moves. I could certainly be wrong, but that's my take. Maybe Alan would like to bet on it, though the truth may not be known until various memoirs are published a decade or two from now...

* Also, I think someone who thinks that a "pious President" will likely be weak and unwilling to see evil doesn't know much about Christians.

Posted by John Weidner at May 7, 2004 10:20 PM
Weblog by John Weidner