Of the Bush Admin’s politically motivated Tough Guy strategy, Kevin Drum writes:
It sometimes seems that the American public really does have an unending appetite for "getting tough" with whichever enemy du jour the White House casts its increasingly feckless gaze on, but I think it's just possible that Bush might have gone to this well one time too many.
But I don’t think that’s quite right. I mean, how many enemies have they given for us to hate? Bin Laden was an obvious target, and there are good reasons to believe that they never even liked him as an enemy. Not only have they never seemed particularly interested in capturing him, but he’s not even the type of target that they want. They don’t want some stateless dude that can hide anywhere. The best he can do is to provide them with an excuse for attacking a country. And in that regard, he’s of much greater use alive.
No, they’re much more interested in attacking a full-on country with an army that will stand still long enough to provide good targets to practice on. And more importantly, to have lots of good assets and resources to abscond with and lots of infrastructure to contract out to GOP investors.
And again, Bin Laden wasn’t a target of their choosing. Even after 9/11, it looks like they kept trying to pin it on Saddam instead. And beyond that, I can’t really think of too many other enemies the Whitehouse has thrown at us. Maybe you could say North Korea, but that’s not really an example of them getting tough; so much as a country they like to mention occasionally for their own purposes, but which we’re not supposed to get rabid about. Sure, there’s Zarqwai and probably some other individuals, but they mainly seem tied back into the Iraq thing. That’s not to suggest that the Whitehouse wouldn’t do such a thing. It’s to say that people aren’t nearly the war-thirsty fools that Drum seems to make them out to be.
And then there’s the issue of our “unending appetite”. I don’t think that’s the case. I think the problem is that many people made an emotional investment in the Iraq thing and still don’t want it to be a mistake. Or at least they don’t want to admit it to us. So they continue to give rhetorical support for something that they’d never agree to go through again. They might want to stay the course in Iraq, but not be so willing to make a new course in Iran.
And hell, had Kerry won in 2004, can we doubt at all that the most fervent war supporters wouldn’t have started speaking ill of the war almost immediately? Hell, they wouldn’t have even waited until inauguration. They’d have insisted that all the bad things happening were due to Kerry’s perceived weakness in dealing with terrorist evil-doers. And tied into that, we shouldn’t doubt that much of the anti-Iran rhetoric we’re hearing is solely due to folks wanting to show their support for Bush.
And so rather than this being a case of people supporting Bush because they like war; it’s more likely that they’re supporting the war because they still like Bush. And it’s just as likely that they still like Bush because they hate us so much and are forced to side with Bush to spite us. And with Bush hovering closer to a dreaded 30% approval, it’s hard to argue that there are too many of these people left. I suspect that that number would drop even faster if they could convince everyone that Bush was a Democrat.
Overall, I really don’t think there ever were really that many people who supported war for the sake of supporting war. I believe many in the pundit-class fall into that category, and certainly many politicians took that stance because it was good for them politically. But I think that most Americans who supported the war did so because they were lied to so convincingly by the people they trusted. They don’t consider themselves to be “warhawks”. They thought it was necessary. They believed that Saddam attacked us on 9/11 and would likely attack us again. This wasn’t about the tough guy posturing the pundits talked about. They were seriously worried about nukes that they were told about. They thought that we were better safe than sorry. And now most of them are sorry that they ever supported this war. Not only are they burned on the Bush Admin, but they’re far less likely to trust the people who misled them last time. And as time goes by, that trust will only continue to drop.
But this wasn’t one in a long stream of enemies that Bush has thrown at us; as Kevin suggested. This is really the first and only one. And it was a abysmal failure.