"This enemy attacked not just our people, but all freedom-loving people everywhere in the world. The United States of America will use all our resources to conquer this enemy. We will rally the world. We will be patient, we will be focused, and we will be steadfast in our determination. ... This battle will take time and resolve. But make no mistake about it: we will win." - 9/12/01, George W. BushOn it's surface, this is yet another flip-flop by Dubya. Well, that's what happens when he veers away from his memorized talking points and his neglected logic circuits kick in. Fortunately for him, Dubya's staff got him back in line the next day. But the damage was already done: Bush was actually caught on tape telling the truth.
Asked "Can we win?" Bush said, "I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." - 8/30/04, Interview with George W. Bush
In a speech before the national convention of the American Legion, the president will make it "crystal clear" that America will win the war on terrorism, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "Not only are we winning it, but we will win it," McClellan said in describing Bush's speech. - 8/31/2004, Article on George W. Bush
But let's look at his "create conditions" part of the quote. Soon after it became clear that WMD's would not be found in Iraq, Bush began putting far more emphasis on spreading democracy in the country (You're supposed to forget his promise that if Saddam gave up all his weapons, then Dubya would leave him alone). I can see how people would like this idea, although I find it ironic when Republicans start promoting the spread of democracy in other countries when they had no interest in it before. Most of them, especially Dubya, couldn't give a damn and were coddling dictators right and left. We count among our "Coalition of the Willing" some people high up on Amnesty International's most wanted list, including Uzbekistan. I guess if you're willing to lend an airbase to us for our Iraq invasion, we'll ignore you're practice of boiling people alive.
But I digress. In terms of building a democracy in Iraq, Dubya and his administration went about it like a first time gardener with a big bank account: He used a bunch of expensive equipment and threw a lot of seeds, but didn't bother learning a damn thing about, you know, actually growing plants. The administration thought it would be simple, leading Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to state that we would be greeted as liberators by the Iraqi people and showered with rose petals. Instead, we pushed our way in, botched the reconstruction, pissed off a lot of people, and gave the country back to the people in a poor and fractured state. These are not the actions of someone who knows how to, or even cares about, rebuilding a country.
In terms of the fight against terrorism, Bush was right when he said that winning isn't even possible. What we can do is ramp up our security and make sure its tougher for terrorists to hit us. These kind of methods do not connote a "war" but rather a "struggle", which is what it is. You cannot win this struggle, which is something people didn't want to hear after 9/11. They wanted to WIN. So it became a "War on Terror" which morphed into the "Iraq War": A visual spectacle of high tech weaponry and territory occupied. So the initial invasion was won, but the subsequent occupation went back to a struggle, and people saw soldiers dying by the hundreds. They did not like this state of affairs, and still don't.
The Republicans want a world of absolutes, and that includes the safety of America. It's not happening, folks. We can do our best, but there are no guarantees. We cannot be completely safe. We cannot stamp out terrorism forever. We cannot win. Yet, we can prevail, which is not the kind of chest-thumping patriotic nonsense that Republicans like. Dubya has said before that he is a good president because he takes unpopular actions. No, I'm afraid there is an even more unpopular alternative that Dubya should take, and the step he took recently will probably be as far as he will venture down that path during an election year.