President Bush plans a four-part report to the nation on his strategy for victory in Iraq. The first was delivered on Nov. 30, and hopefully the next three will provide more answers. The initial speech failed to address many of the questions that need to be answered. In fact, it was filled with praise for the efforts of the Iraqi military and police and seemingly was designed to reinforce his constant efforts to assure his supporters that the U.S. is confident that Iraqi forces will be ready in the near future to take over the main thrust of efforts to replace American troops in dealing with insurgents.
Hopefully, chapters two through four will amplify the president's strategy, which I found to be lacking in many areas. The speech was received with plaudits from many commentators for finally outlining to some extent military, political and economic plans needed to achieve victory. I did not find any of these factors convincing and would only give the speech a rating of five or six out of a possible field of 10.
The president failed to address the statements of some of our military commanders that the presence of American troops is in fact helping to encourage the insurgency that has cost so many American and Iraqi lives. And there are a great many who question the president's insistence that great progress has been made in Iraq while still maintaining that an American military presence will be needed for many years.
The president left unclear how Americans will be able to measure any progress in Iraq and whether it is realistic to believe his goals. Although a great majority of Americans wanted to hear the president's estimate on when and to what extent the U.S. would be able to reduce American forces in Iraq, Bush was silent on that most compelling issue that occupies the minds of so many.
In response to the great many Americans who have been demanding a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, the president reiterated his oft-stated insistence that a deadline would indicate to the world, and most particularly to the Iraqi insurgents, that America was weak and invite new attacks on the U.S.
The president insisted that "I will settle for nothing less than complete victory," which he defined: "Victory will come when the terrorists and the Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation."
That's a promise to the nation that will be hard to fulfill. Let's keep in mind that those who write his speeches are very good at making him sound good. But at the same time we have to understand that as president he has the responsibility of reviewing all that these wordsmiths put together and can make all the changes he desires.
One final thought on the president's speech. I have not seen a single poll on reaction of Americans to his Nov. 30 talk. I don't understand that. All of his important talks in the past have been followed by polls of the people for their reaction. I have yet to see any such follow-up to this very important speech, and I've carefully reviewed the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Buffalo News and numerous television channels for this public reaction.
I've been unable to find any. What's going on here? Why the void here? Are the media afraid to report a negative response to the president's speech? I'm writing this days after his speech and still no poll on public reaction. Again, I ask why?
Murray B. Light is the former editor of The Buffalo News.