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The Box that Bush Made
February 1, 2003
By Mike Shannon

Of all the lousy reasons to go to war can there possibly be one lousier than to save face? Tragically, we may end up in a war that is totally avoidable for that very reason.

Reasonable people may argue the how and why, but no matter where you align yourself on the political spectrum very few would question that Mr. Bush has gotten himself into one heck of a spot. He has managed through his repeated use of fire and brimstone style rhetoric, simplistic reasoning -- due to an over reliance on his not-very-well-seasoned "gut" -- coupled with a slavish adherence to an agenda based more on ideology that geopolitical reality, to box himself into a degree that is a marvel of ineptitude. Watching him attempt to squirm his way of his self spun web would be amusing except for the very real possibility that he will blast his way out. For when it comes to Bush vs Hussein, the Sequel, he has left himself very few other options.

It is possible that Mr. Bush has left himself with no escape route for the simple reason that he feels no need for one. If this is indeed the case that would indicate that he sees war as the only legitimate course of action in this matter. Accepting his own oft stated belief that he considers war as the last option as truthful, then one can only assume that the present predicament he finds himself in is not by design. And he has no one but himself to blame.

Many have compared the events of September 11 to be the moral/military equivalent to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. While there are any number of differences, I concur in principle. Both were not only grotesque violations of our national sovereignty, they were unforgivable assaults of the very precepts of human civilization. As such, they both warranted a united and forceful response.

Had Mr. Bush chosen to initiate a broad scale assault on Iraq in conjunction with the attack on Afghanistan, in the weeks immediately following That Day, resistance to his call to arms would have been minimal. Instead, he and his council of advisers chose to take a more cautious approach. While this may very well have been the more prudent policy, it has allowed a potentially irreversible cooling of emotions to take place. A change in the Zeitgeist that has left Mr. Bush scrambling to "make his case" ever since.

According to CNN, Mr. Bush's State of the Union address was the 138th time he has discussed Iraq in a public speech in the past 18 months. And while he will most likely gain the benefit of a boost in polls taken immediately after the speech, it will in all probability be short-lived. In stark contrast, the day after Pearl Harbor FDR gave one speech -- lasting all of about three minutes -- that galvanized a nation for war like no speech in American history ever had, before or since. Mr. Bush on the other hand finds himself still scrambling to convince a majority of Americans -- and even more so, a majority of the international community -- that war against Iraq is both valid and necessary.

While it may be easy to criticize the tactics -- seeing how the litany is ever growing and changing, I have long since lost track of which of Mr. Hussein's many despicable faults is the one which warrants our declaring war on him -- and the very strategy itself, you must give credit to Mr. Bush for his refusal to take "no" for an answer. Although, we have reached a point in the process where it is difficult to determine if this intransigence is based on strength of conviction or a firm understanding that if he were to change his mind he would have hell to pay politically. Of course, there are any number of people who would applaud him for backing away from the pit of Hell that is war, and recommitting himself to finding a nonlethal solution to this problem. However, as much as Mr. Bush would welcome the adulation such a move would bring, he fears the retribution from those on the other side of the debate even more.

Even he, in a quiet moment of self reflection, would be forced to admit that his vaunted Bush Doctrine is in tatters a mere 15 months after it was unveiled. The pronouncements of who are the enemies of America and how and when they would be dealt with that were delivered with such dogmatic intensity and manichean finality, have now been shown to be hollow rumblings of a not so grand strategy. Having already decided to basically ignore Iran and placate North Korea, if Mr. Bush were to roll over on axis member number three, Iraq, the Doctrine would be rendered for all practical purposes, null and void.

The one weapon that Mr. Bush can still draw upon is the nearly omnipotent power of the American Presidency. Not only does his every utterance still garner front page notice, at the end of the day the decision -- that is of course if you accept the pusillanimous abdication by the members of Congress of their authority to decide when and why the young men and women of the United States of America go to war, as mandated by the Constitution -- remains his to make. It is becoming ever more likely that he will make the decision to send our youth off to kill and be killed once more. If the results of that decision play out as forecast by his ever optimistic legion of apologists would have us believe they will, then Mr. Bush will have done more than conquered a demonic foe, he will have saved his Presidency. If, as is more likely, the worst case scenarios are the result, the casualties of the battle field will surely be joined by more than a few prominent ones in the political arena.

You may contact Mike Shannon at

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