Monday, November 28, 2005

The Iraq Mess I: Live by the Spin, Die by the Spin

So the hounds of the press are now chewing over the rotting carcass of the Bush Administration's war policy in Iraq, now that a Democrat with impeccable pro-military credentials has made it safe to do so. What's more, they are doing so with impunity, after a Bush effort to tar Rep. John Murtha (D-Johnstown, Pa.) with the lefty brush misfired badly.

What the reporters need to be dissecting is just how much the Bush Administration relied on public relations spin to get us into this mess, and the ways that reality invariably points out the limits of spin.

Let me start by giving the administration the benefit of the doubt and letting it off the hook for lying its way into war with Iraq. Let me also put the invasion in the most charitable light by suggesting that an influential cadre within the White House--maybe even including the President himself, but most certainly excluding former Secretary of State Colin Powell--believed that a global conflict between the West and radical Islam was inevitable, and that the best course for the West to follow would be to take the fight to the enemy.

It did not follow that Iraq was the right enemy. Saddam Hussein's ostensibly secularist Baathist ideology made it a poor candidate for the role the Bush cabal cast it in, that of sponsor of worldwide Islamist terror. (Ally Saudi Arabia is a far better candidate, unfortunately for our political and business leaders.) And--as we all now know--there was little evidence that the Hussein regime was in any position to be much of a threat to anyone other than its own citizens and perhaps its neighbors.

But--or so we were told after the public didn't warn to the original story line, which was "Why wait until the threat is iminent? Let's take him out now"--the Bush administration hawks and their amen corner on Fox News kept repeating that Hussein represented a threat to world peace that would eventually rank with Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Not only that, the Bush PR team told us that (1) Hussein would fall quickly, (2) the grateful Iraqis would throw rose petals at our feet, and (3) we'd have a model democracy up and running in no time, with only a small number of American troops required for the task.

Now, more than a year and a half after the President declared that we had achieved our mission in Iraq, we are slowly waking up to the fact that of those three predictions, only (1) came true. Neither the rationale nor the aftermath have worked out as the Bush Administration spun them. And after Murtha called it as he saw it, the Bush war party has discovered that there are some things you just can't spin your way out of.

I'm fond of saying, when public perception of some event shifts radically for no good reason other than a message being drilled into the collective consciousness, "It's all PR." Maybe the Bush Administration's current politico-military predicament will teach it the lesson that no, it's not always all PR. Sometimes you need to be honest about the difficulties and complexities of a situation. More likely, though, the present occupants of the White House will continue spinning, all the way into their political graves.


Joe King Gas-Eyed said...

Hi Sandy, I came to your page while searching for blogs related to "city planning". While I don't usually like to comment on politics, I couldn't help but notice some oft used logic in your remarks about the current situation in Iraq.

Could you please tell me what you meant by Saudi Arabia being a better candidate than Iraq on the "war on terror"? Should the U.S. military be in Saudi Arabia now instead of in Iraq? Why? To get rid of terror once and for all? To set a model for democracy? Would the Saudis have welcomed American soldiers with flower pellets, too? If choosing Iraq was a miscalculation; on a scale of 1 to 10, what would have choosing "The Cradle of Islam" been?

Already, thousands of Muslim youths are flocking to Iraq against incredible odds just to attack "The Great Satan"; could we begin to imagine what the situation would be if the democracy-building, flower-seeking, freedom-defending solders were scattered between Mecca and Medina? And would it be politically possible, then, to ban 'foreigners' from entering "occupied Mecca" even if it was realistically impossible to do so? Two million yearly pilgrims (many of whom wait a lifetime) would just have to postpone their ‘hajj’ until the conflict is over.

Anyway, as I've said, I don't like to comment or even talk about politics (or any other hopeless topic). I AM, however, looking for realistic alternatives to conventional city-building.

Sandy Smith said...

Hi, Joe.

Saudi Arabia makes "a better candidate" than Iraq only because Saudi money keeps many of these jihadists afloat, whereas Saddam Hussein had little to do with sponsoring them at all. Otherwise, your points about the higher costs of invading Saudi Arabia are quite valid.

As for "alternatives to conventional city-building," are you referring to the ways cities have traditionally been laid out and developed over the centuries? Or the more spread-out model that has been dominant since the dawn of the Auto Age?

Joe King Gas-Eyed said...

So you're saying it's not a better 'military' candidate? That's a valid point of view to consider. But then when you say "Saudi money"; are you referring to the Saudi government, or the Saudi people (of whom a fraction is donating their money, to whatever cause)? For the former; I doubt very much that the Saudi monarchy has anything to do with even the very thought of it. As for the latter; that would, indeed, raise some very interesting questions. Should the actions of ordinary citizens (let alone unlawful citizens or even renegades) make a whole nation liable? Would the United States be liable if some of its citizens did incredible "terror" damage to, say, Nicaragua, for example.

As for city-building (notice I'm deliberately not saying city-"planning"), I'm referring to concepts like the Minnesota Experimental City (MXC) project. I'm hoping that someone would shed light on this idea. I wrote on the subject in my blog a while back but can't seem to find anything new. I believe that with the "e"-revolution raging, now is a better time as any, to re-look into it.