Lest We Forget
First and foremost, a Happy Remembrance Day to everybody here in Canada and around the world. Today is a very important date for all of humanity, and we must never forget the enormous amounts of sacrifice involved in guaranteeing our freedoms in two major world wars.
Reclaiming the Rhetorical High Ground
The past few months have not been kind to the Bush administration. The post-"major combat" phase of Iraq continues to plague the military and its civilian leadership. The CIA leak investigation has removed a key neoconservative architect of the war, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, from the White House. Ongoing investigations and new allegations into interrogation tactics are damaging America's claim to the moral high ground in the war on terror. The President has appeared lost and meandering in his efforts to re-define the paramteres of Iraq and Islamist terrorism, prompting early second-term charges of a "lame duck" administration. Bush has lost the support of realists over the handling of Iraq, he has alienated his conservative base with the Harriet Myers Supreme Court nominations, and he has exposed a rift in his neo-con support group. In order to shed his troubles and reclaim the rhetorical high ground at home and abroad, Bush must undertake a strong charm offensive.
To win back public support, Bush should take the following steps: first, re-articulate the strategy for securing democracy, security, and stability in Iraq that the administration had developed last year. Too often it has appeared that there is no coherent strategy to defeat Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist network. The policy outline need not constituted a timetable-based "exit strategy," but it should articulate a timeline for achieving certain political objectives in Iraq's transition: elections, attaining higher levels of Iraqi security forces training, and sealing the country's porous borders to cut off the supply of materials and terrorist recruits who are undermining the new regime in Baghdad. These items are critical to success in Iraq, and putting forward deadlines for these objectives will not hinder in any manner the American mission. Accompanying this must be a profound rhetorical campaign espousing successes for both the fledgling Iraqi government and the Bush administration. If the only news emanating from that country involves Zarqawi's successful terrorist missions, public perception in America of Iraq's progress will remain pessimistic.
Second, the Bush administration should pull an about-face and publicly embrace the McCain amendment to restrict American interrogators' ability to exert physical pressures and abusive tactics against captured terrorists. The United States has seen its image tarnished and legitimacy reduced by the scandals at Abu Ghraib and other allegations of prisoner abuse and torture. The idealist features of America's war against terrorism--liberty, justice, and human dignity--lose credibility when America engages in similar repugnant tactics as al Qaeda or Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist thugs. Liberal democracies in an age of terror must not succumb to temptations to resort to "lesser evil" tactics to secure the national interest. The United Statees needs to reclaim its Hamiltonian tradition of being a shining example of democracy, the rule of law, and human dignity. Captured terrorists possess valuable information that can be used to prevent further atrocities, and certainly interrogators must have means to extract that information, but it cannot be acquired via torture and other means that flagrantly violate the Geneva Convention if America is to retain the moral high ground in this war.
Lastly, the Bush administration must focus its attention on achieving diplomatic solutions to the crises with Iran and North Korea. Tehran must be brought into compliance with its obligations under the IAEA as well as be held accountable for President Ahmadinejad's comments about wiping Israel off the map. Assurances of peaceful intentions and maneuvers to effect "transformative change" in the posture of the Iranian regime must be pursued. North Korea's recent diplomatic performance must be viewed with skepticism; the Bush administration will not repeat Clinton's judgment errors of 1994, but it must endeavour to not make a new series of mistakes in dealing with Pyongyang. Aid and security guarantees ought to be linked to the DPRK's compliance with any new agreement on its nuclear development. The proper balance of carrots and sticks can be utilized to end this standoff and strengthen America's global security, as well as demonstrate to a Washington-wary "international community" that the United States does not possess the militaristic tendencies that many of its greatest critics routinely charge.
President Bush's legacy hinges on success in Iraq, but more importantly the image of the United States is also hanging in the balance. The administration can reclaim the initiative in the war on terror, achieve victory in its central front in Iraq, and defuse tensions in other global hot-spots, but it must be the instigator of these changes. The President famously said that America would not wait for threats to fully form before taking action; the time for action is now.