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2004-08-31

Dyslexia or admission of fatal error? 

Regarding George W. Bush's dyslexia, the common view is that although Bush is rather handicapped in expressing himself verbally, this inability only hides an underlying shrewdness and intelligence--sometimes to Bush's advantage, as opponents tend to underestimate him.

Now yesterday, George Bush made a rather surprising statement on TV, which makes it to a section headline in DerStandard, whereas the Washington Post has the following paragraphs hidden in an article about the Republican National Convention:
Bush stirred up fresh criticism of his leadership when he said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show that he doubted that the United States could actually win the war against terrorism. "I don't think you can win it," he said. "But I think you can create the conditions that those who used terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."

Bush's comment drew a swift reply from the Kerry campaign, with Edwards, the vice presidential candidate, accusing Bush of declaring defeat, saying the Democrats have a plan to win that war. White House officials moved just as quickly to explain that the president meant that the war on terrorism is unconventional and will produce no surrender ceremonies or treaties and that the United States must be prepared for a generation of vigilance.
For DerStandard, this amounts to "Policy Reversal by Bush: We cannot win the war against terror". In fact, as the New York Times points out, Bush's words are in stark contrast to earlier assertions:
As recently as July 14, Mr. Bush had drawn a far sunnier picture. "I have a clear vision and a strategy to win the war on terror," he said.

At a prime-time news conference in the East Room of the White House on April 13, Mr. Bush said: "One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we are asking questions, is, 'Can you ever win the war on terror?' Of course you can."

It was unclear if Mr. Bush had meant to make the remark to Mr. Lauer [the NBC-interviewer, ed.], or if he misspoke. But White House officials said the president was not signaling a change in policy, and they sought to explain his statement by saying he was emphasizing the long-term nature of the struggle.

Taken at face value, however, Mr. Bush's words would put him closer to the positions of the United States' European allies, who have considered Mr. Bush's talk of victory simplistic and unhelpful.
Simplistic and unhelpful, yes. Yet it is hard to believe that Bush would wipe away such a core piece of the justification of, among other things, his Iraq campaign in such a fleeting manner. Because the (European) alternative to military invasions in Arab countries was always a disciplined divide-and-conquer approach that would aim at isolating the violent extremists from the Arab mainstream so as to be able to persecute the terrorists with the support of the Arab masses. In contrast, the military approach chosen by the Bush administration was always bound to alienate the Arab mainstream. The only justification for this had to be a believe that a short-term turn for the worse in the Arab mainstream would be compensated by mid-term sweeping victory. If Bush gives up that pillar of justification, it amounts to admitting that yes, the US was wrong (killing tens of thousands of people in vain), and the Europeans were right.

Clearly, George W. Bush must have misspoken.


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