Thursday, January 18, 2007

Entitled to Enabling Behavior

One of the more curious arguments made by President Bush on behalf of his surge policy is the insistence that the Democrats who oppose the surge must put forward their own plan for victory.

The argument, as many have pointed out, is both logically and factually challenged. Factually, the Bush surge plan is not the only one on the table. The Baker-Hamilton Commission, Senator Joseph Biden and Congressman John Murtha have all proposed alternatives to the current policy. And why, logically, should the Democrats be the ones to pull Bush's bacon from the fire? Opponents of the war have argued from the beginning that it was a bad idea, that it would lead to sectarian violence and destabilize the region. Now US Senator Jim Webb made this argument explicitly in a Washington Post Op Ed in 2002, as did former Vice President Al Gore in a September 23, 2002 speech. Those who argued against the war were attacked in the most vociferous, no holds bars terms, dismissed as stupid and ignorant. The administration didn't hesitate to name undercover CIA operatives in an effort to silence critics. The administration can hardly expect those who worked so vigorously to silence to now buy into their failed enterprise.

So if the argument is patently absurd, what is going on? The prevailing view seems to be that this is mere rhetorical swordplay, and with the number of Republicans, from press secretary Tony Snow on down, repeating the talking points, that's probably part of what is going on.

But I think that there is something more. I think Bush genuinely believes that it is other people's job to bale him out when he gets in a fix. That is, after all, his life history. Drunk driving ticket? Fix it. Problem with the selective service? Nice berth in the National Guard comes along. Doesn't show up for duty? No problem. Oil business in financial trouble? Here comes Harken. Needs to bail on Harken? Wow, some sucker wants to buy my worthless stock. Couldn't win the popular vote in Florida. Hey, what's Jim Baker for?

This is why Bush (and alas, the rest of us) is in so much trouble in Iraq. There's no fix for this problem. They haven't had a policy, only a politics, for six years and even if they were up to the job of getting one, its too late. Bush's lame broken egg remarks to Jim Lehrer on PBS shows that the problem is dimly seeping into his consciousness, but he's still in denial.

The consequences is that this is going to end very very badly. Bush may not still be on the bottle, but he has an alcoholic's inability to change behavior until he hits bottom. Since hitting bottom is going to be worse than the helicopters taking off from the roof of the Saigon embassy. And since we--the country as a whole--have been his enablers, we're going to be there when the whole thing goes to smash.

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