Two intersting articles today demonstrate the difficulties that any President has in formulating foreign policy in a Democracy. Both articles are worth a complete read, and I highly recommend them.
Fouad Ajami writes in U.S. News and World Report:
�The burden of this war is that its costs are so easy to see while its gains in Iraq–and in neighboring Arab lands–are infinitely harder to pin down
Austin Bay writes in Strategy Page:
Saddam sought a “Greater Iraq”; (Serbian dictator Slobodon) Milosevic fought for a “Greater Serbia.” After he had killed, exiled or intimidated a sufficient number of Serb democrats to solidify his Belgrade power base, he began his just-above-the-radar war designed to play on European military reluctance and U.N. political weakness.
One of the wonderful features of American public life, and one of its greater weaknesses, has been the American distaste for a standing military, and for foreign adventurism. While we have had our jingoistic periods, as Mexico in 1848, The Spanish-American War of 1898, etc, we have quickly become tired of ‘owning’ other countries, and those countries have benefited from our more benevolent occupation, and, sometimes, even gained from our relinquishment of control, as in the Phillipines. Up until the end of WII, and the beginning of the Cold War, we have had a large mistrust of the existence of a standing army, held our soldiers in disrepute, and disbanded those armies as soon as possible, paying the price next time those armies were needed in lack of experience and preparation.
This explains, in part, the current public malaise with our presence in Iraq. Americans do not have much staying power when it comes to foreign occupation. We want our men and women home, raising their families and enjoying the life they devoted to protecting. There has to be a very good reason to keep them overseas, especially in danger, and if the reason is not apparent, we lose the fervor necessary to prosecute a long war.
In order to counter this, the administration in charge needs to constantly re-focus the public’s attention, and remind it why we are fighting. President Roosevelt did this marvelously, in WWII, giving regular “fireside chats” from 1932-1944, explaining his view of the ongoing political and military situation, and giving the people a feeling of being a part of those decisions. It was as if your boss came to you, regularly, to discuss what was happening with your company, asking for your advice because he respected your opinion.
I fault President Bush directly for our current low public opinion of the war…he has rarely, if ever, given the public the trust they deserve in explaining his position. Admittedly, he is not a public speaker, as was Roosevelt, and the format Roosevelt chose would not work for him, but it was and is incredibly essential that the world be gotten out there. If the President cannot do it, then his surrogates need to do that. Without that, the American public cannot be expected to continue to support the war. Why should they? They have not been given a reason to do so.
I have accused the administration of arrogance from the beginning. Time after time, they have formented policy without consulting the public and Congress. They have dismissed the importance of public support by this policy, and they do not really deserve our support…except insofar as they have been right. They have made huge mistakes in their conduct of the war in Iraq, and the public has stood beside them. The pubic is losing patience, however, and if the war is extended, for any reason, such as trouble with Syria or Iran, this impatience can and probably will deflect the ability of the military to do an effective job in either situation.
Quoting Betsy, at Betsy’s Page:
Remember the jokes after 9/11 that went along the lines of “if…., the terrorists will have won.” Well, if we back out now of Iraq now, the terrorists will literally have won. Remember that as you see the protestors in the streets on the anniversary of the war. Whether you supported it or opposed it from the start, this is the situation we’re in now, and the worst thing would be cutting out now