Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bush on Mubarak and Iraq

A post by Bec on Sandmonkey’s blog referred to a recent interview that George Bush gave in which he spoke about Egypt and Iraq. It’s interesting

The interviewer says, “I try to dig a little deeper on Egypt, where the political opening of 18 months ago seems to have been abruptly closed by President Hosni Mubarak, with a muted U.S. response to the arrest of the moderate opposition leader, Ayman Nour. Has the U.S. given up on promoting reform in Egypt?”
"Of course we have not given up," Mr. Bush says. "We were disappointed" about Ayman Nour. Does he believe Mr. Mubarak should release Mr. Nour? "Yes, I do, but he'll make those decisions based upon his own laws." Mr. Bush says he's spoken to Mr. Mubarak's son and heir-apparent, Gamal, about Mr. Nour, "and I have spoken to Mubarak a lot about democracy. And, equally importantly, I've talked to . . . a group of young reformers who are now in government. There's an impressive group of younger Egyptians--the trade minister and some of the economic people--that understand the promise and the difficulties of democracy."

The pace of Middle East reform will vary by country, he adds. In Kuwait, they now let women vote. "And so if you look at the Middle East from 10 years to today, there's been some significant change. Jordan changed, Morocco, the Gulf Coast countries, Qatar," and of course the nascent democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Regarding Iraq, Mr. Bush is a bit reflective, if also insistent about the costs of failure. "I'm not surprised that this war has created consternation amongst the American people," he concedes. "The enemy has got the capacity to take--got the willingness to take innocent life and the capacity to do so, knowing full well that those deaths and that carnage will end up on our TV screens. So the American people are now having to adjust to a new kind of bloody war.

"Now, my view of the country is this: Most people want us to win. There are a good number who say, get out now. But most Americans are united in the concept--of the idea of winning."

On that point, I ask Mr. Bush to address not his critics on the left who want to withdraw, but those on the right who worry that he isn't fighting hard enough to win. "No, I understand. No, I hear that, Paul, a lot, and I take their word seriously, and of course use that as a basis for questioning our generals. My point to you is that one of the lessons of a previous war is that the military really wasn't given the flexibility to make the decisions to win. And I ask the following questions: Do you have enough? Do you need more troops? Do you need different equipment?" The question I failed to ask but wish I had is: Does this mean that, like Lincoln, Mr. Bush should have fired more generals?

With sectarian strife in Iraq, some critics (such as Sen. Joe Biden) are saying the best strategy now is for the country to divide into three--Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni. Mr. Bush says partition would be "a mistake," though he does add that "the Iraqi people are going to have to make that decision." But he says Iraqis didn't vote for partition when they approved their new constitution or new government, and "this government has been in place since June; 90 days is a long time for some, but it's really not all that long to help a nation that was brutalized under a tyrant to get going."

Mr. Bush is most emphatic when he links Iraq to the larger struggle for Mideast reform. "In the long run, the United States is going to have to make a decision as to whether or not it will support moderates against extremists, reformers against tyrants. And Iraq is the first real test of the nation's commitment to this ideological struggle. . . . I believe it strongly. One way for the American people to understand the stakes is to envision what happens if America withdraws." He has been hitting that last point hard in his recent speeches, and it is the linchpin of the argument Mr. Bush will make through November against the Democrats who insist on pulling out immediately.


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