Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What are President Bush's personal and political motives?

Republican Politics, American Style
Published in Metro Eireann on July 26th 2007 By Charles Laffiteau

Since arriving here in Ireland last September, one of the questions I have been asked most frequently is “Why President Bush continues to insist that the US must remain fighting in Iraq, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the situation there is not improving and that the US public wants its soldiers out of Iraq?”
Having pondered this question for several years, I will now attempt to tackle this issue. While I am not a mind reader or psychoanalyst, I will try to answer this question; by addressing it from the perspectives of what I believe President Bush’s political and personal motivations are for “staying the course” in Iraq. This breakdown will not be pretty although I have tried to divorce my personal feelings about the President’s actions from my analysis of them. I will leave it to others to decide if I have actually been able to do so.
Let me begin by telling you that I was a supporter of President Bush in 2000, both in the Republican primaries and during the Presidential campaign. While I personally admired Senator John McCain for his ethics and willingness to take a stand on principles, I thought Bush would be a more pragmatic Chief Executive and thus more likely to get things done as our nation’s leader. I think President Bush was at his Presidential finest during the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 Al Qaeda attacks when he cautioned US citizens not to react against Muslims and Arabs living in the US.
I also supported the President’s decision to send US Special Forces into Afghanistan to destabilize and overthrow the Taliban regime and to hunt down the members of Al Qaeda using that country as both a sanctuary and base for training and conducting terrorist attacks against the US and its allies. On the domestic side I was also a supporter of the tax cuts that the President pushed through early in his term as well as his “No child left behind” legislation for public education reform. More recently I have also been supportive of both his trade policies and his attempts to address the illegal immigration issue.
I was a member of the “minority“of voters who voted for Bush when he was elected President in 2000 and in the “minority” again when I voted against President Bush (as opposed to voting for Democrat John Kerry) when he was re-elected in 2004. I take full responsibility for the part I have played in the current political mess the US finds itself in, both at home and abroad. I could have and should have been a more vocal public critic of both Bush’s domestic and foreign policies as soon as I realised they were heading in the wrong direction. Instead, I ignored my concerns and remained largely silent because my Republican Party was finally in control of both the Congress and the Presidency for the first time in decades. I didn’t want to be perceived as being a disloyal Republican now that my party was finally in control of the federal government.
I was wrong and I apologize for my inaction. I cannot change the past, but hopefully I have learned something from this experience and will not repeat these same mistakes again in the future. It is my responsibility as a US citizen to stand up and be counted whenever I believe my country and its leaders have taken the wrong course of action, regardless of what it may cost me in terms of my personal prestige.
Having said that, let’s examine what I believe were and are the President’s political motivations for both initiating and continuing to prosecute the ‘war on terror’ in Iraq. Historians, psychologists and political leaders (be they authoritarian or democratically elected) have long been aware that a fearful public is much easier to manipulate and thus inclined to support and or vote for political leaders who appear to be ‘tough’ on terrorism and offer hard-nosed solutions that also quench the public’s thirst for revenge. A ‘war on terror’ is also a fairly simple concept which is both easier for political leaders to explain and for frightened citizens to understand.
The reasons why Bush characterizes the US as being in a war on terror should be considered within the context of US domestic policy making. Only in his capacity as the Commander in Chief of US military forces does the president have the ability to act freely to defend the US without the consent of Congress. While Congress must agree to authorize military appropriations to fund a war, it plays only a consultative role when it comes to actual decisions on how the war is prosecuted.
Thus by making counter-terrorism part of a war, President Bush was able to free himself from the Congressional constraints of US domestic policy making. By doing so he also won the support of fearful and or revenge seeking US voters for both re-election and the measures he saw fit to use in his ‘war on terror’. Today Bush knows that Democrats (even with a majority in Congress and strong public support) are powerless to stop him unless they can also persuade almost half of the Republicans in Congress to turn against the President and vote with them to override his vetoes of their legislation to stop funding this war and force a withdrawal.
The Bush administration’s three pretexts for invading Iraq as part of its war on terror were; that Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), that there was a connection between al Qaeda terrorists and the Iraq government and that toppling Saddam’s regime would make the world safer from terrorism. While it is abundantly clear that President Bush was wrong on all three counts, the reasons why he continues to pursue the war in Iraq has much to do with what I believe were and still are his personal motivations. I will discuss these in next week’s column

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