My brother the columnist has great readers. Or at least one great reader:
White House Briefing | News on President George W Bush and the Bush Administration: White House Briefing reader J. Harley McIlrath of Grinnell, Iowa, e-mailed me yesterday some insightful questions about just one sentence of Bush’s speech.
In fact, his questions about that one sentence alone were more penetrating and important than any of the coverage I read of Bush’s whole speech this morning.
The sentence from Bush: “The only way the terrorists can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission.”
“1. Who are ‘the terrorists?’ He’s talking about Iraq. Are ‘the insurgents’ also ‘the terrorists?’ Has Bush ever defined just who ‘the terrorists’ are?
“2. What would constitute a ‘win’ for the terrorists? What do they want? Do we know? Has Bush ever asked himself what ‘the terrorists’ want and whether or not it’s reasonable? Tactics aside, what do they want? Don’t tell me ‘they hate freedom.’
“3. What constitutes ‘losing our nerve?’ Is it losing one’s nerve to pull resources back from an ineffectual approach and apply them to an approach that is more promising? How many times in WWII did we pull resources off one front to reinforce another?
“4. What is ‘the mission.’ Can we abandon a ‘mission’ that has never been defined? To quote George Harrison: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.
“Imagine if the press corps took this one short sentence and forced Bush to define his terms.”