In the past, I’ve often said that President Bush has been more effective in televised speeches than he has been given credit for. Not tonight. I thought he came across as stiff, nervous, and anxious to get it over with. The importance of the issue seemed to overwhelm the President’s ability to communicate. I suspect that only a few listeners absorbed more than a general impression of what the new strategy is all about.
Which may be just as well. Words at this point mean little. Most Americans want us to win in Iraq. Most will be willing to give the new plan a chance to work, whether they understand what it is or not. All depends on the success of the new approach.
The problem, in my view, continues to be the difficulty of defining “success.” As the President warned, even if the new approach is “successful,” our television screens will be filled with scenes of violence. But that is precisely what, until now, has been defined as failure.
So let’s see what happens. The administration has bought itself a window of time, at least until the 2008 campaign heats up, to try to achieve discernible signs of progress. While the new strategies sound to me like good ideas–one wonders why some of them weren’t implemented some time ago–the more important factor, I think, is sheer persistence. The President will persist; let’s all hope and pray that he succeeds.
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UPDATE: Based on comments so far, our readers are solidly behind the President and viewed the speech positively.
PAUL adds: The first few minutes of the speech weren’t well-delivered, but I thought the substance was good throughout. I’ve had several reservations about a surge, perhaps the biggest of which is that at some point (a year, 18 months or whatever) we’ll pull out and the sectarian violence will ratchtet up again. That’s why we need not only short-term military success but also political progress that will change the dynamic once we pull back. I have confidence in our military, but not in Iraqi politicians. But there is some relationship between the two — the better we’re doing militarily, the more influence we have with Iraqi politicians.
Thus, while there’s no doubt that the administration is taking a gamble, it’s one that could succeed. And any other approach would also constitute a gamble.
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