The Bush administration has a daunting task ahead as it tries to rally renewed support for U.S. policy in Iraq. It will continue to be daunting until the administration is more explicit about what its goals and strategies are.
Virtually every day brings stories of U.S. casualties and wavering morale, which might turn out to be even more significant than the deaths. The report from weapons inspector David Kay shows no weapons, only hints that Saddam Hussein really wanted them.
The effort to get a U.N. resolution that would clear the way for countries like Turkey and India to send troops has apparently foundered. Without a U.N. resolution, any hope to acquire substantial sums from potential donor nations at a conference later this month seems dim.
As Ted Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute colorfully put it to us, the public relations effort last week looks like an effort “to put lipstick on a pig.”
So far the efforts from national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have fallen far short of what is needed to counter growing skepticism. In fact, they have retreated somewhat from earlier administration claims. Saddam had an “intention” to acquire destructive weapons. He was “sympathetic” to international terrorism. He was a vicious, repressive dictator, which nobody doubted.
To rally support, the administration must do more than repeat previous justifications. It needs to tell Americans what the goals in Iraq are and how they can be achieved and the expected timetable. Iraq is now free of Saddam’s rule. Does the U.S. want democracy (which could yield a Shiite government that might ally with Iran)? Or is the U.S. goal simply a regime that poses no threat to its neighbors? Whatever the goal, how will the U.S. get there and when?
Vague words about freedom and expelling evil are no longer enough.