I’ll give Bush a little higher marks than Charlotte is willing to dole out. I think the most important thing Bush did had nothing to do with unveiling a plan (which people like Charlotte perhaps thought he didn’t unveil enough of) and had everything to do with this paragraph:
“The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people — and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.”
I agree with National Review Online‘s editorial that if he would have admitted that if he had said that earlier “his credibility with the American public might not be at its current low ebb.” Last night’s speech was a vast departure from the “stay the course” rhetoric that has become far too common. Last night seemed more genuine.
As for Charlotte’s concern that Bush didn’t explain that the changes in Iraq are a fundamental strategic shift rather than simple increase in numbers, I’d have to disagree. Bush did his best to explain the challenges we currently face, what we are changing to address these challenges, and why the new strategy is different from past strategies that weren’t working. He also did a great job of reinforcing the consequences of failure in this paragraph:
“The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.”
Will the American public jump on board? Will Maliki live up to his commitments? We can’t be sure. But, NRO shows the important difference between skepticism and the anti-“escalation” crowd (like the folks outside our building earlier this week):
“It is one thing to have a healthy skepticism of the effect the president’s latest push will have, and another to oppose it without either offering any plausible alternative or pushing all-out for a withdrawal. That is the position of many Democrats and the odd Republican, including the GOP presidential aspirant Sam Brownback. They all pretend that conditions in Iraq can be improved with the U.S. maintaining or even reducing its current level of effort. That is wishful thinking. The surge is the only realistic hope for checking Iraq’s downward slide.
“More important than Bush’s speech or any policy specifics is the big picture: He is still committed to winning in Iraq, he has identified population security as the key element of our strategy, and he is sending a talented counterinsurgency expert in the person of Lt. Gen. David Petraeus to run the war. Presumably, Bush will give Petraeus whatever resources the general says he needs going forward, and Petraeus won’t be as blinkered as his predecessors. It is important that Petraeus get to Iraq as soon as possible, and be in a position to begin implementing the plan and adjusting it as it bumps against realities on the ground.”