Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 29, 2007

LISTENING TO THE GENERALS....The president delivered a speech yesterday at the Naval War College, rehashing most of what you'd expect him to say about the war in Iraq. (Surprise, he's "encouraged" by what he called "hopeful signs.") When he opened the floor to questions, however, the audience seemed a little skeptical.

Q: Mr. President, I just returned from a week at the United States Army War College in Pennsylvania on national security. I walked away with so much more pride in our military. I would follow them anywhere. My question is: At the beginning of your speech -- that you said that you consult with the military. With all due respect, sir, how much do you really listen and follow them?

BUSH: Yes, a lot. I don't see how you can be the Commander-in-Chief of a well motivated military without listening carefully to the advice of your commanders.

Really? In order to be effective, he has to listen to the advice of his commanders? Does Bush remember this from January?

When President Bush goes before the American people tonight to outline his new strategy for Iraq, he will be doing something he has avoided since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003: ordering his top military brass to take action they initially resisted and advised against. [...]

It may also be a sign of increasing assertiveness from a commander in chief described by former aides as relatively passive about questioning the advice of his military advisers. In going for more troops, Bush is picking an option that seems to have little favor beyond the White House and a handful of hawks on Capitol Hill and in think tanks who have been promoting the idea almost since the time of the invasion.

In November, after the election, CentCom commander Gen. John Abizaid rejected the notion of a surge, saying that he "met with every divisional commander, Gen. Casey, the Corps commander, Gen. Dempsey" and asked them if bringing "in more American troops now, [would] add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq and they all said, 'No.'" Indeed, Bush fired Gen. Casey, in large part because he neglected to tell the president what he wanted to hear.

And yet, here we are, just a few months later, watching Bush brag about "listening carefully to the advice of [his] commanders." Please.

If Bush wants to reject the advice of top military leaders, that's his prerogative; he is regrettably the Commander in Chief. But he really needs to drop this I-listen-to-our-military schtick.

Reporting on yesterday's speech, Peter Baker noted, "[E]ven in this military setting, the audience responded politely and without much enthusiasm." Bush used to count on these speeches to show how receptive military audiences are to his message. Not anymore.

Steve Benen 11:58 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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Comments

Steve,

Just an FYI, "...the core commander, Gen. Dempsey..." should read, "...the Corps commander, Gen. Dempsey..." as in "Marine Corps". Probably a French root, since it was Napoleon who instituted a free ranging "Corps d'Armee" structure to facilitate manuever.

Sorry to be pedantic, but as a former military officer, I get a little bent when folks get terms of art wrong.

Posted by: Doug on June 29, 2007 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

test

Well?

Posted by: sfsfd on June 29, 2007 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

The questioner should have replied, 'I don't see how you can be commander-in-chief either, Mr. Bush.'

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on June 29, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry about that.

Posted by: sfsfd on June 29, 2007 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

But he does listen...in one ear and out the other if it doesn't conform to his (or is its Dick's?) view of the world.

Posted by: Tigershark on June 29, 2007 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, this is a tough one. Let's see:

consult: to seek advice or information from; ask guidance from

follow: to conform to, comply with, or act in accordance with; obey

It's always rich when liberals who criticized the president for not changing course, turn around and criticize him for changing course. The president (and countless others) recognized by the beginning of this year that the military strategy in place was not working effectively. The strategy he put in place was advocated by several current and retired military commanders, most critically including the current military commander for operations in Iraq. You know, they guy who actually wrote the book on counter-insurgency.

So Bush did consult with his military commanders and went along with some of their recommendations. Just not the recommendations of the commanders most responsible for the ineffective policies in place. That's the difference between consulting with military commanders and blindly following them.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 29, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Oh..and I'm SURE Bush listens to the commanders. He just doesn't let sane advice deter him in the slightest from insisting on his whims. So, within the statement it's not really inaccurate.

It all depends on what the meaning of "listen" is, see? If you think it means to hear and process information and act on that information, then no, he doesn't listen. That's not Bushie's definition though. When HE says "listen" he means that he was in the room while other people were flapping their gums at him and he had the courtesy not to yawn or have them thrown out. Big difference.

Posted by: Doug on June 29, 2007 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

It's telling that the only places Bubble Boy Bush ventures to dare give a speech these days are sealed off, "safe" venues like the Naval War College. He daren't show his face in public anymore.

Posted by: Stefan on June 29, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw:
The president (and countless others) recognized by the beginning of this year that the military strategy in place was not working effectively.

The president was only years behind the curve on that one. It took the old-school GOP creating the Iraq Study Group and the Republicans getting trounced at the ballot box to get his attention. To him those were the only clues that his "stay the course" "strategy" was leading nowhere. Nope, it all looked good to him until something happened inside his little D.C. bubble.

Hooray, Georgie. Have you noticed that water is wet and the pope is Catholic?

Posted by: cowalker on June 29, 2007 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of the CiC's speaking, Juan Cole has an interesting report on another Bushgaffe (policy content, not syntax):

Bush Turns Iraq into Israel/Palestine;
Gaffe endangers US Troops


Bush said in a speech on Thursday that he hopes Iraq will be like Israel, a democracy that faces terrorist violence but manages to retain its democratic character:

' In Israel, Bush said, "terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it's not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that's a good indicator of success that we're looking for in Iraq." '

These words may be the stupidest ones ever uttered by a US president. Given their likely impact on the US war effort in the Middle East, they are downright criminal.

The US political elite just doesn't get it. Israel is not popular in the Middle East, and it isn't because Middle Easterners are bigots. It is because Israel is coded as the last European colonial presence in the region, an heir to French Algeria, British Egypt, and Dutch Indonesia-- and because the Israelis pugnaciously continue to try to colonize neighboring bits of territory. (This enmity is not inevitable or eternal; in 2002 the Arab League offered full recognition of Israel in return for its going back to 1967 borders, but the Israeli government turned down the offer.) But for the purposes of this analysis it does not really matter why Israel is unpopular. Let us just stipulate that it is. Why would you associate American Iraq with such an unpopular project, if you were trying to do public diplomacy in the region? Bush had just announced a new push to get the American message out to the Muslim world, the day before.
...

Posted by: Neil B. on June 29, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw: The biggest mistakes of the Iraq war were in the beginning, when BushCo wouldn't listen to Shinseki et al. After he with Rummy imposed bad policy and pushed generals to be sycophants to it, then they have the temerity to complain that the policies aren't working, and start trying to listen to the sort they'd been ignoring all along ...

What is it with you loyalists, anyway? Do you ever stop to think ... at all?

Posted by: Neil B. on June 29, 2007 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand why you even try to make sense of what that man says. He himself has no clue. He says what's in front of him, or what cliches have been taught to him, or what Dick tells him to say.

His words mean nothing, and there's no point in tying ourselves in knots trying to parse them.

Posted by: merciless on June 29, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Neil B:Why would you associate American Iraq with such an unpopular project, if you were trying to do public diplomacy in the region?

Because he is as ignorant as if he had never read a substantive paragraph on history or current events in the Middle East. Which he hasn't. He's too lazy. He gets cronies picked for loyalty to tell him what's going on, uncritically swallows information that's been cherry-picked to meet his wishes and expectations, and basks in their warm, squishy approval. That's why he didn't notice until early this year that his "strategy" in Iraq wasn't working.

Posted by: cowalker on June 29, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

merciless as a point.
It should be read as a half-remembered propaganda feed. At least Reagan could get the script right and ad-lib with considerable skill. You can imagine Dick Cheney briefing Bush on what he wants to do and Bush going "yeah, yeah, I like the sounda that".

Posted by: bellumregio on June 29, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

The whole premise of this article is absurd. Why does the president have to follow each and every piece of advice given by someone who wears a uniform? Had Lincoln done the same the USA would be dealing with a slave-holding, contentious nation along much of its southern border.
Pres Bush gets conflicting advice from the military. Running around in circles is not leadership.
Personally, I wish that he had been less worried about public opinion and had pushed for a military solution that would let the different factions know that we are in charge. That was what happened in WW@ that allowed Germany and Japan to become democratic nations a mere 5-6 years after the end of the war; they knew they had lost and had to find a new way. However, public opinion is important as a part of a military campaign by a democratic nation.
Liberals talk out of both sides of their mouths and are intellec tually dishonest about their position, as indicated in the wrenchingly obtuse comments to this article. They seem to argue against the war, but fault the Pres for not following 'the military's' advice for a more massive use of force. Now that the handcuffs around the military have been loosened and a new plan is implemented (the surge) that looks more like what some military commanders wanted in the first place, he is wrong for doing that.
You guys are a hoot. How about rooting for America (and Iraq) to win this instead of doing what you can to see that Bush loses.
Simpletons.

Posted by: livermoron on June 29, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw: the President changed course WHEN IT WAS TOO LATE. It amazes me that conservatives cannot grasp this.

if I give you advice, any advice in 2007 and you ignore it for 2 years, is it still good advice in 2009? Maybe. Maybe not. Most likely it is not. You would be better served to ask me in 2009 what advice I have for you now.

See, that is what Bush did. And the commanders told him the surge was a bad idea. Instead of listening to them, though, he decided to go with the advice he got in 2004 and earlier (which he ignored when he got it). It doesn't apply anymore, though.

So he ignored the commanders twice, really. Taking 3-year old advice while ignoring 0-day advice isn't "listening to your commanders".

Don't give us that BS about him taking the advice advocated by the "current military commander for operations in Iraq". The ONLY reason he is the current military commander for operations in Iraq is because Bush gave him that job because he was one of the very few people who agreed with Bush, Kagan, et. al.

If 100 people tell you to do A, and 10 tell you to do B, are you really listening to people if you decide to go with B? Not really. That's what happened here - Bush ignored the group that told him the surge was dumb, and listened to and promoted the (much smaller) group that told him the surge was awesome.

Posted by: Joshua on June 29, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

You guys are a hoot. How about rooting for America (and Iraq) to win this instead of doing what you can to see that Bush loses.
Simpletons. Posted by: livermoron

The only simpleton is "livermoron", who fails to see that Bush is losing this war just fine on his own, without anyone's help.

Posted by: DJ on June 29, 2007 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

My wife is baking a cake, she tells me to turn down the heat, it's too hot. I turn up the heat. While the house is burning down I am trying get my ignorant wife to understand how it was her fault for calling for a temperature change. Sounds like bizarro world to me.

Posted by: Barry on June 29, 2007 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

With an MBA from Harvard, the President is uniquely qualified to synthesize the opinions of the generals, and other empirical information, that he and he alone has access to, to make strategic as well as tactical decisions. Since this approach has worked so well and has been successful in an unprecedent fashion during the last six years, it is extremely difficult for an objective observer to understand the liberals' quibbling over this.

It's understandable for the liberals to worry about the design of a welfare system to deliver free vials of amoxycylin to poor kids suffering from ear infections, but if they want to be taken seriously they should leave the significant military decisions to the commander-in-chief.

Posted by: gregor on June 29, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

"...the core commander, Gen. Dempsey..." should read, "...the Corps commander, Gen. Dempsey..." as in "Marine Corps".

That's what I get for quoting Newsweek.

Thanks for the catch. It's corrected.

Posted by: Steve Benen on June 29, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

These words may be the stupidest ones ever uttered by a US president. Given their likely impact on the US war effort in the Middle East, they are downright criminal.

It's not just that Israel is a bad model that makes his words stupid. There is no way his words of (paraphrase) "I want Iraq to be like Israel," are going to be heard in the ME as anything other than, "I want to give Iraq to the Zionists."

Criminally stupid.

Posted by: Disputo on June 29, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

newsweek could not care less about accurate reporting...but to be fair...time,cbs, and other msm outlets omit important details and outright distort the news. newsweek could have just been "disrespectful".

How about another reason for Casey being "fired"? This was just another case of Bush weakness, Casey would have to go before the senate for hearings and the "slow bleed" stratedgy would be employed again. Casey would have to sit there and answer inane question after question being posed by senators who could never measure up to him in manhood,honor, and commitment to the United States of America. I would have let him go and told him to "take the gloves off" and let the cowardly senators know what a "MARINE" thinks. But that will not happen, if Bush cannot take the gloves off with our enemies, how could he take them off for the internal political enemies?

Posted by: average american on June 29, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

I repeat it like a broken record, but it's still important: we must discover precisely who our enemy is, so we'll know who to look for, where to go and who to capture or kill.

Until then we're just shooting off bombs without any point. It's a waste of money and lives.

If the government can show us exact evidence, showing specifically how someone in Iraq is our enemy, then they have a case for staying there. Otherwise we should leave and apologize.

Posted by: MarkH on June 29, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter livermoron - the team's not winning games, we need more cheerleaders!

Posted by: royalblue_tom on June 29, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Herr Dr. Michael Savage, what are you doing here masquerading as 'average american'?

Posted by: gregor on June 29, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I would have let him go and told him to "take the gloves off" and let the cowardly senators know what a "MARINE" thinks.

I think Chuck Hagel would have knocked you on your ass and called you a girl, sir. And that dastardly James Webb probably would have pistol-whipped you like the snarly little bitch you appear to be.

One does not speak to lawmakers in such a manner. It is undignified.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on June 29, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

"It's telling that the only places Bubble Boy Bush ventures to dare give a speech these days are sealed off, "safe" venues like the Naval War College. He daren't show his face in public anymore."

And now military venues aren't safe for him either. Boo hoo.

Posted by: Cal Gal on June 29, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

"Since this approach has worked so well and has been successful in an unprecedent fashion during the last six years, it is extremely difficult for an objective observer to understand the liberals' quibbling over this."

Ha HA HA HA ha ha ha ... Whew! ROTFLMAO to the nth.

Posted by: Cal Gal on June 29, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

wow, there is some really tough typing dudes out there...oh, but you are just telling me what other people would do to me or were you referring to Pace??...how typical of you cowards.

Herr Savage?? no, savage can't type as fast as he can speak or think. but i do listen sometimes and he cracks me up when he gets pissed off.

i find it hard to believe there are rational people out there that believe the lawmakers we have are above the scrutiny of the people and think they are somehow more "dignified" THAN an American Officer in the United States Marine Corp.

Posted by: average american on June 29, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

You guys are a hoot." Posted by: livermoron

You guys aren't a hoot. 3500 new cemetary plots full of not being a hoot. Simpleton.

Posted by: Zit on June 29, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Casey would have to sit there and answer inane question after question being posed by senators who could never measure up to him in manhood,honor, and commitment to the United States of America.

Tell it to Jim Webb. Moron.

By the way, what part of civilian oversight do you not understand? Putz.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 29, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

As if we need another reminder, but:

Sometimes there's something you should have done early on, and then later things are already FUBARed up, so it isn't always the best thing to do then -
Is that too hard for the BuCheRo-bots to understand?

Posted by: Neil B. on June 29, 2007 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Is it possible to force average american to change his name? It's just embarrassing to the rest of us Americans to be forced to read his drivel.

BTW AA, if a senator is also a retired MARINE does that make him dignified enough for you?

Posted by: Clive on June 29, 2007 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

BG,RS - I don't think he understands any part of civilian oversight.

Maybe you should call it "The people not wearing shiny things on their chest checking the work of the people that do wear shiny things on their chest."

Posted by: Clive on June 29, 2007 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK


Iraq, Stay or Leave?
If the Iraqi's stopped all fighting, formed an exemplary democratic national government and bid all American troops to leave Iraq this would be a great victory to 'progressives' and liberals. They would offer money and services to restore Iraq to health while all the while grinning madly that peace and prosperity had been the result of America's intervention in Iraq.
Meanwhile Bush, Cheney, the neocons and their oil company allies would have a fit. As I have previously written, I have seen Dick Cheney smile that Al Qaida is now in Iraq. It suits his interests to a tee. Instability in the Midddle East is a power goal and an economic goal for those in office today. A rush to bomb Iran before leaving office is cogent policy and tactically urgent for this group.
The Democrats should take their case directly to the American voters with a bi-partisan touring panel. The message would be that the Iraqi's are not our enemy. The message should include the Iraq Parliment's agreement and blessing that withdrawal is the mutually sanest course to reduce violence.
Retired Generals who know full well that there is nothing to win in Iraq should join the touring panel to explain to the voters that a policy of leaving is more likely to be a policy of winning than what is constituted by a policy of staying.
Both serving and retired Generals know that there is nothing to "win" in Iraq except for our departure sooner or later. The military brass know that attacking Iran will cripple the military and to some degree leave America defenseless. It's time that the armed forces stop serving as mercenaries for a Cheney led economic policy which actively promotes Mid East instability as its corner stone.
Leaving Iraq is the natural and ultimate goal.
Our staying provides political ammo for the Al Qaida misfits we led into the country. Our leaving cripples these thugs' political message and motivation.
Eighty plus per cent of the Iraqis want the U.S. to leave.
And we stay why?
Cheney and his cohorts lie when they say we stay to win. They lie when they say the Jihadis will any more follow us home than they attempt to do so at present. They lie that our nationalism should want us to stay when leaving is the only defensible long term plan. They entice and invoke a following by propaganda calls to follow the Red, White and Blue while corruptly wishing our occupation and control to continue ad infinitum.
America's best interest are served by leaving.
Get er done, Congress.
Get er done, voters!

Posted by: Craig Johnson on June 29, 2007 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

I do believe "average american" may have the slightest bit of a uniform fetish.
As for having "more dignity that an American officer in the United States Marine Corps"; is he referring to Ollie North?

Posted by: doug on June 29, 2007 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Left wingers? Are you on drugs? There isn't even a left to speak of in this country, where does this "left wing" come from. Do you feel that since the right is now so far right that centrists are "your" left wing. So what are these EXTREMISTS doing? Why don't we read about their atrocities. Get a grip. I am glad you are not afraid of the keyboard warrior, but you have to work on the boogeyman thing.

Posted by: Barry on June 30, 2007 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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