WHY REPORTERS DON’T GET THE PRESIDENT: Great post by Orrin Judd on GWB’s modus operandi:
This weekend, Daniel Schor was on NPR expressing bewilderment at how the President could demand a vote on an 18th resolution on Monday and by Friday be telling Tony Blair it was fine by him if it was just withdrawn. Mr. Schor said he’d never seen an administration that could reverse course so easily and make so little of it. It seemed as though it had never occurred to Mr. Schor that the President could do so because he genuinely didn’t care one way or another about the UN–having them along, at least rhetorically, would have silenced some peoples’ concerns, but the UN has no role to play in the actual waging of the war and is too debased an institution to offer a meaningful moral imprimatur. The important thing, from Mr. Bush’s perspective, is and has been to remove Saddam. No amount of background noise was ever going to deflect him from that aim.
And, at the end of the day, once again, he’s achieving his goals. Mr. Broder, though he may be alone, appears to have figured this out. Whether he’s correct that Mr. Bush did not anticipate all the side effects–like the delegitimization of the EU and the UN–we’ll only know for sure in a few years. But, considering that the President stocked his administration with advisors who are hostile to such transnational institutions and considering that they now done them significant damage, it seems like Mr. Broder might want to consider that this too was a goal that was within the President’s sights.
The other great post on Bush’s efforts was Steven Den Beste’s classic on “making them an offer they can’t accept” (OTCA–hey, I invented an FLA!). Since Bush just did exactly that when he urged Saddam and sons to leave Baghdad, it’s worth linking to it, and providing an excerpt:
George Bush has now, for the third time, used a diplomatic gambit. The first time it happened, I referred to it as “making them an offer they cannot accept”. He didn’t invent this, but he’s proved rather adroit at using it.
About a year ago, he presented the Taliban with an ultimatum: Turn bin Laden over to us; shut down all al Qaeda facilities; eject all forces associated with al Qaeda from your country. Otherwise you’ll face the consequences.
Since bin Laden effectively was the ruler of Afghanistan at the time, and since al Qaeda forces represented the most trustworthy core of the Taliban field army fighting against the Northern Alliance, this was something that the Taliban couldn’t do. So what appeared to be a reasonable offer was in fact couched in terms which could not be accepted.
He did it again a few months ago, to the Palestinians. In the most significant change of American policy toward the Palestinians in decades, he declared that the US would no longer seriously negotiate with them until they implemented serious political reforms, including removing Arafat from power. (And he was roundly condemned for it. And it seems to be working. But the real point of it was to disentangle the US from that situation so it could start concentrating on Iraq again, despite the efforts of various bodies to simultaneously make that situation intractable as possible and to claim that we couldn’t even think about Iraq until after we’d solved it.)
Now he’s doing it again, only this time with the UN.
As Den Beste goes on to note, Bush has already done that with Hussein, by offering him a chance for peace by handing him a laundry list of demands, that included destroying all WMDs and missles, as well as ending support for terrorism. As Den Beste dryly noted at the time, “if Saddam did these things, he’d be dead within six months through military coup, or trial and execution for crimes against humanity. The problem is that Iraq can’t do these things without revealing that it’s been lying for years.”
And his latest OTCA?
AP headline: “Iraq Rejects U.S. Ultimatum for Saddam“.