My Brother Has Great Readers

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.”

McIlrath wrote:

“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.”

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5 Responses to My Brother Has Great Readers

  1. John de Hoog says:

    These questions are pretty much similar to those some of us were asking back before the war was even launched. We wondered aloud how there could be any benefit to the US or the world in a “regime change”? Who would run the country? The Kurds? Pro-Iran Shiites? How do you tell the good guys from the bad guys in the illogical construct that is Iraq? The war seemed certain to open a pandora’s box of problems. And guess what? That’s exactly what happened. Now there is no good way out, only bad options, just as we feared.

  2. cafl says:

    Your brother should nominate that comment for the Koufax best blog comment award.

  3. DL says:

    Good questions -what are/were your solutions ?- Kerry still has his secret plans hiding at that undisclosed place where his 180 is to be signed.
    If John was asking those questions about nation building before the war even started he has a great crystal ball , because I thought at that time – it was all about the WMDs – no one even mentioned nation building, just the same old , same old, “Quagmire” The answer to the question , “What do the terrorists want?” is more anti-war folks to undermine the President! I am so happy that this crowd wasn’t around at Pearl Harbor!

  4. Aidan Maconachy says:

    This is a slight digression and refers back to a post I had on DIscourse back in 2004.

    When the Abhu Ghraib revelations first surfaced I was inclined to believe that a minority of boneheads were behind it and I also felt a lot of the “torture” allegations were being hyped. However the recent revelations that have surfaced suggest a deeper and more prevasive problem.

    It now appears that torture was used as a tool to humiliate others in a random and completely gratuitous fashion – for reasons of power and control basically. This is quite different from applying pressure to a suspect who has knowledge that within an hour a bomb will detonate in a mall killing and wounding hundreds. In such a case I would say do whatever it takes to extract information about the whereabouts of the device.

    I argued on this blog earlier that American methods can’t be compared to the very real torture of regimes such as Iran, but given the apparent extent of this problem we can’t off-load responsibility by simply saying “its worse over there”.

    Recently Hitchens in fact used the term “moral Chernobyl”.

    When the Bush administration presumes to be an exporter of “freedom and democracy” to other countries it better make damn certain that its representitives are above this type of mass descent into moral idiocy.

  5. John de Hoog says:

    To DL: It doesn’t take a crystal ball. Just someone to ask the obvious question, “If you overthrow the current Sunni regime, what are you going to replace it with?” My answer? Don’t meddle in another country, least of all if doing so would cause more harm than good. Sorry, I fail to see the connection with Pearl Harbor. Did Iraq attack your country?

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