George W. Bush does not think that the Taliban are his enemy. He doesn’t think Usama bin-Laden is his enemy. He doesn’t think former Ba’athists are his enemy, or even foreign suicide bombers. No, his enemies are ‘opinion leaders’ here in the United States. That’s you and me.

Key Bush advisers think the general public has considerable patience for keeping U.S. forces in Iraq, but they are mindful that opinion leaders, including members of Congress, high-profile analysts, editorial writers and columnists, are more pessimistic on that question. And they acknowledge that images of mayhem that people see from Iraq create doubt about the prospects for success.

In studying past wars, they have drawn lessons different from the conventional wisdom. Bush advisers challenge the widespread view that public opinion turned sour on the Vietnam War because of mounting casualties that were beamed into living rooms every night. Instead, Bush advisers have concluded that public opinion shifted after opinion leaders signaled that they no longer believed the United States could win in Vietnam.

Most devastating to public opinion, the advisers believe, are public signs of doubt or pessimism by a president, whether it was Ronald Reagan after 241 Marines, soldiers and sailors were killed in a barracks bombing in Lebanon in 1983, forcing a U.S. retreat, or Bill Clinton in 1993 when 18 Americans were killed in a bloody battle in Somalia, which eventually led to the U.S. withdrawal there.

This is really dangerous for a few reasons. Number one, it indicates that they are not concerned with whether the conflict in Iraq is winnable, but only with whether they can maintain the hope that it is winnable.

Number two, it means that they consider the true enemy to be all us latter-day Walter Cronkites.

Number three, it means that we can expect no realism from any government spokespeople, since evidence of doubt is considered a threat to the success of our mission.

Number four, this means that we can expect more Armstrong Williams’ moles infiltrating the MSM to give us pollyanish views of the situation.

Number five, it means that we will be blamed if we succeed in undermining popular support for Bush’s disastrous Presidency and foreign policy.

If you doubt we are the enemy, read this:

At stake is the ability to sustain a war that so far has claimed the lives of nearly 1,750 U.S. troops and that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has predicted could last years. The Bush team is acutely aware that public support remains critical for the long-term viability of such a venture, and in the face of sagging polls in recent weeks it has determined to refocus energy on shoring up popular opinion.

In shaping their message, White House officials have drawn on the work of Duke University political scientists Peter D. Feaver and Christopher F. Gelpi, who have examined public opinion on Iraq and previous conflicts. Feaver, who served on the staff of the National Security Council in the early years of the Clinton administration, joined the Bush NSC staff about a month ago as special adviser for strategic planning and institutional reform.

Feaver and Gelpi categorized people on the basis of two questions: “Was the decision to go to war in Iraq right or wrong?” and “Can the United States ultimately win?” In their analysis, the key issue now is how people feel about the prospect of winning. They concluded that many of the questions asked in public opinion polls — such as whether going to war was worth it and whether casualties are at an unacceptable level — are far less relevant now in gauging public tolerance or patience for the road ahead than the question of whether people believe the war is winnable.

“The most important single factor in determining public support for a war is the perception that the mission will succeed,” Gelpi said in an interview yesterday.

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