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"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
Sir Winston Churchill

8.25.2006

Bush's Communication Problem: It's the Message, Stupid

VDH:

So what Mr. Bush is faced with is this nearly impossible paradox of half war/half peace: at a time when most are getting fed up with abhorrent Middle Eastern jihadists who blow up, hijack, and behead in the name of their religion, he is attempting to convince the same American public and the Western world at large to spend their blood and treasure to help Muslim Afghans, Iraqis, and now Lebanese, who heretofore — whether out of shared anti-Americanism or psychological satisfaction in seeing the overdog take a hit — have not been much eager to separate themselves from the rhetoric of radical Islam.

In any case, the administration’s problem is not really its (sound) strategy, nor its increasingly improved implementation that we see in Baghdad, but simply an American public that so far understandably cannot easily differentiate millions of brave Iraqis and Afghans, who risk their lives daily to hunt terrorists and ensure reform, from the Islamists of the Muslim Street who broadcast their primordial hatred for Israel and the United States incessantly.

Remember the surreal Middle East: we freed Shiites from Saddam; so Shiite Iran in response tries to destroy Shiite democrats in Iraq, who, being constantly attacked by terrorists and militias, in turn sympathize with anti-democratic Hezbollah terrorists and militias in Lebanon. And at one point last month, the Lebanese, between slurs against America, were expecting the United States to send it cash, retrieve expatriates immediately, restrain Israel, do something about Hezbollah, and praise Lebanese critics — and all at once.

So how can one expect Americans to witness the barbarism of the jihadists, the creepy rhetoric of the imams and mullahs, the triangulation of Arab governments, and the puerility of the Muslim Street, pause, take a deep breath, and sigh, “Ah, they are frustrated because they are unfree and poor, and so in error blame us for their own autocracies’ failures. Therefore, we must be generous in our sacrifices to allow them the same opportunities for freedom that we enjoy.”


Professor Hanson gives the president more benefit of the doubt than I think he's earned on this score. When he first laid out his administration's post-9/11 policy, he did so clearly: "You're either with us, or against us." Hard to argue with that.

The problem has been that the administration has created a third category: "You're against us, but we'll pretend you're with us."

Therein lies the "complexity".

Moammar Qaddhafi didn't give up his WMD because he likes Americans. He did it because he saw what happened to the Taliban and decided being with us was a much healthier proposition than against us. That's what military power can do for you when you're willing to use it decisively.

Once these tinhorn dictators discovered Bush had put us back on Kofi Annan's leash, however, that advantage evaporated. No one is more clearly "against us" in the War on Terror than Kofi Annan.

At least VDH has provided insight into why Dubya hasn't communicated administration policy to the American people---he can't. Not in any way that is likely to increase their support for it, nor their confidence in this course.

Ironically, Bill Clinton was more of a cowboy than Dubya---when he wanted to take action in Bosnia, he did so unilaterally, and without UN sanction.

It seems to have done the job, too.

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