Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It's the Vision Thing

Steve Benen:

The president has been busy in Eastern Europe this morning, making brief appearances in Latvia and Estonia. Bush fielded a handful of questions about Iraq, but unfortunately, he didn't have anything encouraging to say.

"There's one thing I'm not going to do, I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete," Bush said in Latvia. "We can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren."

That's fairly predictable palaver, but in advance of his Thursday meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, does the president have any thoughts on how he might achieve "nothing less than victory"? Not so much.

Instead, the president hopes Maliki will fill in some answers for him.

"My questions to him will be: What do we need to do to succeed? What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence? [...]

"I will ask him: What is required and what is your strategy to be a country which can govern itself and sustain itself? And it's going to be an important meeting, and I'm looking forward to it."

Let me get this straight. After nearly four years of war, and with conditions deteriorating by the day, Bush has given up on articulating his own vision for victory, and plans to ask Maliki if he has any ideas?

In other words, Bush says we're stuck in Iraq and we'll accept nothing less than victory. Asked how we achieve this victory, the president seemed to respond, "Beats me; let's see what that Maliki guy has to say."

The White House also seems a little confused about how to describe the current conditions. Asked yesterday about whether Iraq is in the midst of a civil war, National Security Advisor Steve Hadley told reporters on Air Force One that it isn't a civil war, but "we're clearly in a new phase, characterized by this increasing sectarian violence."

Less than a day later, the president said Iraq is not in a new phase at all.

Q: Mr. President, thank you, sir. What is the difference between what we're seeing now in Iraq and civil war? And do you worry that calling it a civil war would make it difficult to argue that we're fighting the central front of the war on terror there?

BUSH: You know, the plans of Mr. Zarqawi was to foment sectarian violence. That's what he said he wanted to do. The Samarra bombing that took place last winter was intended to create sectarian violence, and it has. The recent bombings were to perpetuate the sectarian violence. In other words, we've been in this phase for a while.

So, what have we learned from the Bush gang about Iraq over the last day? That we'll achieve victory, but the president doesn't know how; Bush will meet with Maliki, not to offer solutions, but to ask questions; and that Iraq has and has not entered a new phase.

That ought to clear things up, right?

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