Thoughts on the speech from the President this evening. In case you missed it, Drudge has a text copy on his site which can be found here.
1. Bush really gives a bad speech. It reads much better than his presentation of it. I know, I know, he rarely gives a good speech. That just makes it harder since my expectations are so low. I think freshman speech 101 students could do a better job. A little more feeling, Mr. President. Please. It's important.
2. The left gets one of its wishes. The president gives a "buck stops here" statement and accepts responsibility for any mistakes that have happened:
The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people – and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.3. The stakes for leaving prematurely were well defined in the speech:
We carefully considered these proposals. And we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale. Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal. If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home.Any competing plan must address this issue. To allow massive killings of the civilian population and the collapse of the democratically elected government to violence and thuggery is unconscionable. A failure in Iraq is not just limited to Iraq either, but also here at home:
The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.
4. Many pro-Iraq war and respected bloggers (Victor Davis Hanson, Mark Steyn) have criticized "a surge" without a change in rules of engagement. More bodies on the ground will not provide a victory. It looks like such a change in ROE is part of the plan:
In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods – and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.
5. I was pleased to see some carefully worded sections on an expansion of the war effort, specifically with regards to Iran and Syria:
Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity – and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.
We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing – and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.
The fight is on against the suppliers of the insurgents. The Patriots and Carrier strike group are specifically mentioned as warning to Syria and Iran.
6. The diplomacy minded realists get a paragraph as well:
We will use America’s full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States need to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would create a new sanctuary for extremists – and a strategic threat to their survival. These nations have a stake in a successful Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors – and they must step up their support for Iraq’s unity government. We endorse the Iraqi government’s call to finalize an International Compact that will bring new economic assistance in exchange for greater economic reform. And on Friday, Secretary Rice will leave for the region – to build support for Iraq, and continue the urgent diplomacy required to help bring peace to the Middle East.
Note that the diplomacy is aimed at the "middle players" in the region. Not with Iran and Syria, but with the states in the region that are on the fence. They don't want a weak Iraq, or worse, an Iranian/Syrian puppet regime, but neither do they want an American victory. Diplomatic actions aimed at explaining the economic benefits to a stable and successful Iraq may ease some of the tensions in the region.
7. The paragraph aimed at the new Democratic majorities in Congress seemed to have missed Dick Durbin entirely as he failed the standard set by not explaining how the cut and run strategy will be more likely to succeed.
In the days ahead, my national security team will fully brief Congress on our new strategy. If Members have improvements that can be made, we will make them. If circumstances change, we will adjust. Honorable people have different views, and they will voice their criticisms. It is fair to hold our views up to scrutiny. And all involved have a responsibility to explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed.
The closing paragraphs are to be remembered in the following year. Patience will be required, but it will be for the better.
Fellow citizens: The year ahead will demand more patience, sacrifice, and resolve. It can be tempting to think that America can put aside the burdens of freedom. Yet times of testing reveal the character of a Nation. And throughout our history, Americans have always defied the pessimists and seen our faith in freedom redeemed. Now America is engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century. We can and we will prevail.
Jim from GatewayPundit provides his always cogent thoughts. I liked the line aimed at the media as well, but felt it was a throwaway line. Most people will quickly forget it.
Hugh Hewitt echoes the attention on Iran:
Crucially Iran heard a hint of measures beyond the borders of Iran, though in the sort of terms that none can object to. When the president spoke of destroying the networks aiding the terrorists, he meant the Quds Brigades and the other Iranian agents at work in Iraq, and the placement of the paragraph cannot be misunderstood.