News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Bush Uses His BIG Voice to Do the "Vision Thing," Part 23

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bush Uses His BIG Voice to Do the "Vision Thing," Part 23

"I've been to war. I've raised twins. If I had a choice, I'd rather go to war." -- George W. Bush, in Houston Chronicle, January 2002

I am listening to Pres. Bush orate and declaim the prepared speech his writers have devised for him about a new plan to win in Iraq. The logic behind the words is somewhat different than before. But the old standards are here as well: 1) we're in Iraq, so the terrorists won't get over here, 2) only absolute victory counts as victory, 3) we're staying the course.

What's news in the speech is how the Pres's writers and ideologists have tried to rewrite who's fighting against us: there's more detail about the enemy as the administration sees it. These include: 1) those Sunnis who are jealous of the Shias, 2) those former Sunni leaders who are jealous of the Shia leaders, and 3) the "real" terrorists who are jealous of us, America, and of our "freedom."

Now this tactic of appealing to self-interest means something to Americans. In our way of thinking we like to reduce things to what people want and how they go about getting it. It appeals to the sense that we have that people are always seeking their own, fighting for what they will get out of it. The problem is, is it a given that people in other societies--especially a society based on tribal, communitarian ideals--think the same way? I wonder.

Bush also appeals to the even deeper sense that Americans have of seeing what others have and comparing ourselves to them to see how far we have gotten in life. In abstract terms, this is called envy. In this way of looking at life, the goal is to make sure that no one is better than us and they should not be better off than we are. It even means that we resent others for enjoying stuff that we don't have. Again, the question is whether people who don't live in a world like ours think and feel this way.

Sure envy and resenentment are universal, but they play differently, depending on some basic assumptions made in a society. In a tribally based society, there's an inherent sense that those who have influence or power are given that by birth or God or the implied acceptance of other members of the tribe. They deserve respect because they have it by a natural right that does not depend on simple self-interest.

He's also listing the good things that the Iraqis are doing to become soldiers and defend themselves so we can leave. This is a good list, it's good to hear people doing things right, getting stuff done, making things fit into place. But it's my guess--and I might be stretching it here--that if the Pres can read off a list in a few minutes about hwat's gone right, that's not a good thing. It's not a good thing because to run a democracy or civil society, the list would run on for days--all those little and big things that make a society run right and fairly. The problem is, Mr. Bush's laundry list of "What's Right in Iraq" sounds like that's about it. Finito.

In his new speech, he has also put a "time-frame" in place. This is so nebulous and ill-defined, however, like his last plans, that it essentially means nothing. One question I always come away from in hearing this simple man from Texas speak BIG is, "what did he just say." Why is that? For a guy who cares so much about coming across as just a simple man, why is it that when he speaks BIG, it often makes little sense?

According to many inside sources, Bush is not the kind of guy who gets involved in the tiny details of planning. He's a player and a "big hitter" so he doesn't get his hands dirty with all that fuss and dust related to fine-tuning something. When I hear him talk BIG like, wanting to sound "historic" and "deep" and trying to make the heart-strings resonate with his vision of the way things are, it sounds a dead knell.

This war on terrorism is a debacle of Biblical proportions, the worst military mistake in 2,000 years, according to an historian whose books are required reading at West Point and other military academies. And staying there just botches it more.

Bush doesn't know this, or won't let himself believe it, but those in the military and intelligence know it. They're leaving the government and military in disgust because Bush refuses to acknowledge reality. He just blows up and gets emotional when anyone counters his rosy-glassed picture of reality.

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