The Conventional Wisdom is that President Bush shouldn’t deliver a speech on Iraq last night. For once, the conventional wisdom is right. No one can begrudge the president, who has had the courage not to go by his poll numbers, the right to speak. But his speech, which was so much like others he has given about Iraq, was unnecessary. Others had made the point for him better during a pivotal week.
Here is Charles Krauthammer on the Petraeus testimony:
For all the attempts by Democrats and the antiwar movement to discredit Petraeus, he won the congressional confrontation hands down. He demonstrated enough military progress from his new counterinsurgency strategy to conclude: ‘I believe we have a realistic chance of achieving our objectives in Iraq.’
The American people are not antiwar. They are anti-losing. Which means they are also anti-drift. Adrift is where we were during most of 2006 — the annus horribilis initiated by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s bringing down the Golden Mosque in Samarra — until the new counterinsurgency strategy of 2007 (the ‘surge’) reversed the trajectory of the war.
It was being lost both in Iraq and at home.
Kimberley Strassel notes that ‘good military policy is good politics.’ The week was a turning point, she writes, but adds that there are still many hurdles, including:
Republicans would do well to absorb the military-success lesson, and quickly, because big challenges remain. The John Warners and Chuck Hagels of the world aren?t yet ready to relinquish their self-proclaimed roles as ‘brave’ GOP war dissenters; expect them to team up with Democrats on creative legislative language that might yet tie the military’s hands. An even bigger challenge for Republicans will be to find the courage to follow President Bush’s lead and make clear to the American public that true success in Iraq may involve a troop presence for many years.
And John Podhoretz is more positive on the president?s speech than I was:
The president’s reduced standing among fellow Republicans and independents has run parallel to a corresponding rise of opposition to the Iraq war. They turned on the war because they believed the facts on the ground dictated an American defeat.
The facts on the ground tell a different story now. It’s very difficult to turn pessimists into optimists, especially if they were optimists who gave up.
Bush has to try, and in his speech last night, he gave some pessimists reason to revisit their change of heart.
A National Review Online symposium also–by and large–gave the speech higher marks than I did. Clifford May thinks that the president did something important.