Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Like Eating Soup with a Knife": Why the U.S. Cannot Win in Iraq


When little-known U.S. Air Force Col. John Boyd died in 1997, he was regarded as one of this nation's most respected military strategists. Marine Corps Gen. Charles C. Krulak called him the "architect of victory" in the 1991 Gulf War. Explaining his interest in combat theory, Col. Boyd recalled, "When I was a young officer, I was taught that if you have air superiority, land superiority and sea superiority, you win. Well, in Vietnam we had all three but we lost. So I realized there was something more to it." What follows is an in-depth analysis of Colonel Boyd's "something more."

Four years after our invasion of Iraq, the United States finds itself trapped in an unwinnable war. The military of the most powerful nation on the face of the earth has been fought to a standstill by a shadowy army of irregular guerrilla fighters who strike suddenly and melt into the shadows of the night. We are fighting a new style of low-intensity conflict, also called fourth generation warfare, that our military wasn't designed to fight. Insurgents, terrorists and revolutionaries have been quicker at learning how to fight such conflicts than traditional militaries. Polls show this situation is the most pressing question facing the American people.

Cold War Antecedents
The roots of our problems in Iraq can be traced back to the Cold War. During the four decades of our tense standoff with the Soviet Union, U.S. war planners expected a global conflict largely centering on the clash of massive armies on the plains of Central Europe. To wage such a war, large numbers of ground forces, naval forces and airpower were required. The U.S. and its NATO allies planned for sustained ground combat against the massed divisions of the Soviet Union and its client states of the Warsaw Pact. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the need for huge combat forces suddenly evaporated.

Still wedded to the equipment and tactics of the Cold War, and with little interest in learning from Mao-Tse-Tung's communist revolution in China, Algeria, the Sandinista struggle in Nicaragua, our own bitter experience in Vietnam or the Russian disaster in Afghanistan, Pentagon thinkers envisioned a changed world in which we would control the time, place and extent of each U.S. intervention. Deployments would involve one country at a time. Combat was expected to be short. Any operations were always to be elective on our part. Emphasis was shifted from manpower to sophisticated technology. In Pentagonspeak, technology became a "force multiplier" that could make up for reduced numbers of troops.

Given the projected on-again, off-again nature of our responses around the globe, a smaller and more easily transportable ground force was preferable to the Cold War's ponderous divisions. Downsizing its large standing army, the Pentagon shifted to a smaller mobile force, with Reserve and National Guard components to be pressed into service for short tours of duty. In the Pentagon's force transformation, crucial military specialties now in high demand in Iraq and Afghanistan--career-slowing assignments in civil affairs, intelligence and military police, for example--were assigned almost entirely to units of the reserves. Stockpiles of supplies and equipment were positioned near potential flashpoints around the globe. As it turned out, the new force structure proved ideal for handling crises in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s.

A Changed Picture
The 21st century brought new geopolitical realities, but Pentagon thinking and our military structure changed not at all. Instead of being narrowly engaged in one country at a time, U.S. forces found themselves fighting simultaneously in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of ending quickly, both wars evolved into open-ended, unconventional engagements with stubborn and elusive guerrilla forces. After the horror of September 11, U.S. intervention ceased to be an option. Faced with a challenge it could not ignore, the U.S. attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan for harboring Osama bin Laden and the perpetrators of 9/11. Preparations also were begun for a preemptive war on Iraq.

Traditional warfare between nations has three distinct phases: (1) deployment of a country's forces, (2) destruction of the enemy's forces and (3) occupation of the enemy's territory. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld regarded the third phase as less important than the first two. The now-legendary clash between Rumsfeld and Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki was over this precise issue, encapsulated in the phrase, "boots on the ground." After a flower-tossing victory parade in Iraq, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz planned a quick pullout of troops. Unfortunately, the chicken hawk neocon encouragers of an attack on Iraq did not foresee the inevitable descent into low-intensity guerrilla conflict.

Prolonged counterinsurgency and sectarian civil war have negated pacification and reconstruction programs in Iraq, and threaten the American military's very control of the ground. By avoiding direct clashes with superior forces, guerrillas are less susceptible to defeat by heavier weapons or advanced technology. To combat guerrilla activity, the current U.S. battle plan calls for large numbers of widely dispersed ground forces exposed to hit-and-run attacks and improvised explosive devices hidden along major routes used by the occupiers. Victory, in the accepted sense of the term, is impossible to measure or even to achieve. Suddenly awakening to reality, the President has developed a belated interest in reading about another low-intensity war, the Algerian revolution that expelled the French 50 years ago.

The Four Generations of Warfare
Military thinkers identify four generations of warfare--three in the past and a frightening new generation bearing down on us today. Dating from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 to the time of the American Civil War, first generation warfare's tactics meant fighting in lines and columns to the ruffle of drums and with banners flying. In second generation warfare, exemplified by the First World War, firepower--specifically artillery--was king. Taught to the U.S. by the French General Staff, linear attrition warfare largely remains the American way of war to this day. The German Army's first use of nonlinear tactics in World War Two made it the first war of maneuver and a prime example of third generation warfare.

Large-scale conventional warfare as waged by today's major powers has been radically transformed. It may be in its death throes. The world has entered a period when nation-states are losing their monopoly on making war and must face belligerents who share neither their philosophies nor their values. Future wars will largely be fourth generation wars waged by groups of stateless terrorists, guerrillas and bandits motivated by fanatical, ideologically based loyalties, and using simple weapons like machetes and AK-47s. Our experience in Iraq already shows that skirmishes, suicide bombings and indiscriminate massacres will replace conventional set-piece battles. As small-scale wars proliferate, conventional armed forces will shrink. The burden of protecting societies will shift from the military to the police and the security industry. In 2005, Scotland Yard quickly identified the homegrown Islamist bombers who attacked London's transportation system, thanks to the highly sophisticated security cameras set up to blanket the city after repeated bombings by the Irish Republican Army.

The Fourth Generation Challenge
Fourth generation warfare--also called guerrilla warfare and asymmetrical warfare--presents a worldwide challenge. Aside from Iraq and Afghanistan, national military forces are fighting irregular opponents in Israel, Turkey, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Chechnya, Somalia, Peru and Colombia. Although national militaries have superiority over their opponents in weapons, equipment, techniques and training, more often than not the superior force has wound up losing. The Israelis experienced this last summer when they invaded southern Lebanon to keep rockets from falling on northern Israel. Despite armored vehicles and superior firepower, Israel's conventional force was severely mauled by Hizbollah irregulars and was forced to pull back. The same scenario has been playing out with coalition forces in Iraq since the premature announcement of "Mission Accomplished."

Irregular forces can be difficult to target with air power and artillery. They avoid confrontations with stronger and more heavily equipped opponents by using concealment and dispersal, often hiding within the civilian population. They can fight an almost endless war of attrition using simple weapons, explosive devices, sabotage, ambushes and assassinations. In his classic war memoir, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence summed up counterinsurgency this way: "To make war upon rebellion is messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife."

Light Infantry the Answer
Light infantry--so-called "foot soldiers"--and what the Army calls "special forces" represent the best way to counter irregular opponents fighting unconventionally. Unless badly outnumbered, well-trained light infantry can usually defeat any force of irregulars it is likely to face. Light infantry must be able to live off the land commando-style for prolonged periods, using stalking tactics against the enemy. If light infantry does not load itself down too heavily with arms and equipment, it can attain the same mobility as the irregulars, enhanced when necessary by helicopters and Humvees. And when it uses force, light infantry can be far more selective in choosing targets than other branches, thus better at avoiding collateral damage to civilians.

Unfortunately, our infantry in Iraq is far from light, and totes more equipment than it needs. American infantry soldiers and Marines carry more than a hundred pounds of body armor, weapons, ammunition, radios and other field equipment, and depend heavily on motor vehicles. These, in turn, tie them to roads and open terrain, exposing them to explosive devices and ambushes, and diminishing their ability to operate in crowded urban areas, such as narrow streets and back alleys. Their crew-served large-caliber weapons are heavy, each requiring several times its own weight in ammunition. Although modest firepower levels are enough to defeat insurgents, we still arm our infantry in Iraq as though they were engaged in conventional combat against heavily armed opponents. Infantry weapons should be simple and ammunition must be light and portable. Excessive firepower not only reduces mobility, it is more likely to cause collateral damage and alienate the local population.

A Gross Imbalance
Late in 2003, it became clear that the U.S. force that had defeated Iraq's army was much too small to pacify the country in the face of resistance from insurgent tribal and religious groups. The mix of technology and manpower was also dangerously disproportionate. As the war dragged on, the Bush administration's solution was to dip more heavily into Reserve and National Guard components. Despite all efforts, the U.S. military remained ill adapted to the task it faced in Iraq--a long, drawn-out, inconclusive war. Moreover, the proportion of active duty versus Reserve forces was out of balance for the war being fought. Curiously, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld did nothing to correct the imbalance.

Made up of older, more-experienced troops, this country's Reserve and National Guard tend to have a larger proportion of higher ranks, more heads of families who have wives, children and responsibilities. Many are buying homes and have mortgages they cannot pay for on military pay. Some are proprietors of small businesses that will fail without their owners there to operate them. Ignoring these realities, the Pentagon has damaged lives and families by calling up Reserve and National Guard units repeatedly for service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although steps are under way to increase the size of both the regular Army and Marine Corps, the Army has already acknowledged that it can add only 7,000 recruits annually.

Too Little, Too Late
Military specialists agree that there are four stages to success in counterinsurgency warfare: (1) isolate the insurgents from external support; (2) isolate the insurgents from internal support; (3) immobilize them and separate them from the population and (4) neutralize their leadership. Because of our failure in 2003 to provide enough troops after the defeat of the Iraqi army, we still have yet to accomplish the first stage--sealing off the borders of Iraq. This should not come as a surprise; the borders of our own country are as porous as a sieve.

Like the rest of the country, the growing unrest among soldiers and their families over the conduct of the Iraq War stems from the failure of the Bush administration to accept the reality that the conflict is burgeoning. Despite rejection of his policy in the November election, the President recently announced a new version of his "stay the course" policy, this time masquerading as a "surge" of 21,500 troops. But "surge" is a misnomer; the surge is really a series of "squirts"--unit arrivals are to be spaced over several months. This new strategy calls for American troops to patrol, set up checkpoints and go door-to-door in Baghdad with Iraqi troops to root out troublemakers. The same tactic was tried last autumn and proved to be a dismal failure after four of six promised Iraqi battalions failed to show up. An American soldier could be stationed at every street corner in Baghdad, and it wouldn't make a dime's worth of difference in the outcome.

The President also named Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus as the new ground commander in Iraq and bumped him up to four-star rank. For the last 14 months, with Marine Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, Petraeus has been co-writing a revision of the Army's counterinsurgency field manual, the first in 20 years. The new manual recommends a minimum ratio of 20 troops per 1,000 population, the same formula set by a RAND Corporation study years ago. With six million people, Baghdad would need some 120,000 troops to control insurgency. The undermanned U.S. force has numbered about 70,000 combat troops in Iraq, with another 60,000 troops in support and headquarters units. An extra 20,000 troops or so will still leave the force patrolling Baghdad far short of the recommended minimum. Combine this shortfall with the plan's dependence on previously unreliable Iraqi troops, and you have a recipe for disaster. Recognizing the dangerous threat to the 2008 election of the President's headstrong refusal to accept that Iraq may be beyond salvation and has become another Vietnam, Republicans in Congress are becoming jittery. The recent addition of three more months to the Army's one-year tour of duty in Iraq has only inreased their level of uneasiness.

But the problem remains deeper than new ploys to artificially add more troops to an exclusively volunteer force. The U.S. can no longer sustain its dream of an armed force able to fight two major wars at the same time. Americans, too busy following President George W. Bush's advice to "go shopping," have shown that they do not share his imperial dreams. Reflecting the current negative attitudes of the population, the mood in Congress makes a return to the draft improbable.

Birth rates have been dropping in the U.S. since their peak of 16.7 per thousand in 1990. The increasing life span of Americans combined with continuing reductions in pregnancies among women in their teens, 20s and early 30s will yield a smaller and smaller cohort of 18-year-olds each year. Yet it is this age group that represents the likeliest candidates for recruitment. A possible solution would be increased recruiting efforts among the millions of illegal and largely Hispanic immigrants already within U.S. borders, with the promise of a reward after service in the form of automatic citizenship.

Another possibility would be for the U.S. to hire and equip mercenary armies from nations with a surplus of unemployed youths. The historical basis for such a force can be found in our own history. Some 30,000 Germans fought against Americans during the Revolution, taking part in every major campaign from Florida to New England. To fight its wars in India during the 19th century, the British formed the Indian Army, consisting of a volunteer force of Indian troops led by British officers. In fact, much of the fighting in Iraq during World War I and the postwar pacification of the 1920s was done by Britain's Indian Army.

One of Osama bin Laden's goals is to destroy autocratic regimes now ruling Muslim countries. Iraq, with its secular government and hated anticlerical dictator, was a prime target. Bin Laden's stated objective is to re-establish the Islamic caliphate that flourished 1400 years ago. Under its rule, Baghdad became the preeminent center of trade, learning and culture. By toppling Saddam, we facilitated this strategy and caused al-Quaida to grow. Secure in their mountain fastness somewhere inside Pakistan's Tribal Areas along the border with Afghanistan, bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the criminal perpetrators responsible for 9/11, are giving thanks to Allah for the Bush administration's unintended boost to their ambitions.

Labels: , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, March 19, 2007

"Waist Deep in the Big Muddy and the Big Fool Says to Push On"


The heading of this editorial is taken from the allegorical song composed by Pete Seeger during the Vietnam War--a needless conflict that caused the public to recoil from the carnage in which 58,000 American troops lost their lives. It is an appropriate choice because another stubborn, incurious, single-minded President insists on pursuing a similarly foolish and futile war to an inconclusive end.

Today marks another grim anniversary as this country begins the fifth year of this latest unpopular war. On March 19, 2003, the U.S. launched a preemptive attack on Iraq. A badly planned invasion of dubious legality, it was based on intelligence that had been "fixed" to suit the desired objectives of neocon operatives who controlled the President's thinking. The true reason, of course, was to guarantee continued U.S. access to Iraq's oil reserves, the second largest on the planet. A secondary consideration was to remove Saddam as a potential threat to our ally, Israel. Saddam's possession of weapons of mass destruction was the "big lie" offered to and swallowed by the American public. The same tall tale was elaborately presented at the U.N. by a naive Colin Powell with a tissue of supporting lies woven by Bush administration war mongers. When no evidence of weapons of mass destruction was found, Bush & Company hastily cobbled together another face-saving lie--we were "bringing democracy to the Iraqi people."

Surprisingly, the number of U.S. troops assigned to the invasion force was remarkably small in an attempt to attain victory on the cheap by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Notably lacking were linguists, military police and civil affairs specialists. Planners who questioned how occupation duties would be managed--interception of across-border infiltrators from neighboring countries, suppression of looting and the inevitable insurgency--were quickly silenced by the Pentagon. The war itself was conducted in a most peculiar fashion.

It is not generally known, but American units in battle had orders to move to and seize preselected targets. They could only fire upon regular Iraqi military units if they were fired upon first. As a result, most Iraqi units held their fire and emerged from the war intact--without having fired a shot and without having been engaged by U.S. troops. Saddam's military simply melted away and returned to their homes with their weapons to join the growing insurgencies of Sunnis and Shiites. Our easy victory became the lead-up to a nightmare disaster scenario that engulfs our inadequate occupying force to this day.

Our poorly planned occupation of Iraq quickly morphed into a singularly unsuccessful pacification effort, with high troop losses in killed and wounded. In 2003, during the 41 days of active combat in Iraq preceding "Mission Accomplished," American forces lost 140 killed (at the average rate of 3.7/day); during the 31 days of December just past, 112 soldiers and marines were killed. Thus, losses during the month of December 2006 (3.6/day) were about as high as they were during the most intensive fighting to defeat Iraqi forces 45 months earlier. Such losses belie administration claims that "We are winning."

Skeptics will inevitably ask, "Winning what?" In any campaign to pacify an unruly populace, so long as one exploding roadside bomb takes the life of a single American soldier, we have won nothing. The only realistic solution may be for us to encourage Iraq to form a Swiss-type tripartite self-governing confederation melding Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis under a slimmed-down central government that would collect taxes, distribute oil and gas revenues and defend the country's borders.

For the record, since the war began, 3,218 American troops have died, and there is still no end in sight. Since the elaborately staged "Mission Accomplished" ceremony, 3,079 troops have died. The official count of wounded now stands at 24,042, but because military authorities lack an accurate system to track troops wounded in Iraq, the number may be considerably higher. And the wounded come home to a mismanaged military and veterans hospital system so poorly run it is a national disgrace. In the meantime, other crucial issues at home such as illegal immigration, hurricane cleanup, factory closings, unemploy- ment, health care, inflation, a burgeoning deficit and a decaying infrastructure have languished unaddressed by the Bush administration.

We were first saddled with the problems of the twin regions then called the Near East and the Middle East in 1947, when the British, exhausted by the enormous price it had paid in men and money to defeat the Axis nations, turned over to the United States the task of defending the two areas. President Truman asked Congress for funds to aid Greece and Turkey to combat Communist infiltration and terrorism. Unlike the British who had managed their vast empire for centuries from their tiny homeland, the U.S. lacked linguists and regional experts familiar with the areas to be protected. Six decades later, we are only slightly better equipped with specialists able to cope with this nation's responsibilities in this part of the world. Among the problems we inherited were those stemming from the arbitrary boundaries drawn after World War I to create artificial countries. Iraq is a prime example. The wonder is that Saddam Hussein managed to rule this seething cauldron of religious and tribal enmity for as long as he did.

Readers surely have become tired of being reminded of Santayana's wisdom about learning from the lessons of history, but consider the following excerpt, written about what Napoleon called "the Spanish ulcer"--the wars in the Spanish peninsula between 1809 and 1814 that led to his abdication: "Napoleon's campaign included a rapid conventional victory over Spanish armies but ignored the immediate requirement to provide a stable and secure environment for the people and the countryside. The French should have expected ferocious resistance. The Spanish people were accustomed to hardship, suspicious of foreigners, and constantly involved in skirmishes with security forces. The French failed to analyze the history, culture, and motivations of the Spanish people, or to seriously consider their potential to support or hinder the achievement of French political objectives. Napoleon's cultural miscalculation resulted in a protracted struggle. The Spanish resistance drained the Empire's resources and was the beginning of the end of Napoleon's reign."

What is remarkable about these words is their source: They are taken from the draft of a field manual, FM 3-24, jointly written by the Army and the Marine Corps, reading copies of which were passed around in military circles for comment. Such interservice cooperation between the Army and Marines is a giant step forward. Titled Counterinsurgency, this field manual finally embodies lessons learned forty years ago in Vietnam--and then forgotten. Substitute "Iraqi" for "Spanish" and "Americans" for "the French," and you have described our Iraq experience. Unfortunately, today's American military leaders have yet to discover the wisdom of their new field manual.

The Iraq misadventure marks the third time that the United States has gotten itself involved in a land war on the continent of Asia against the advice of military leaders. The first was in 1950 when North Korean troops poured into South Korea. Gen. Omar Bradley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called it "the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy." By 1952, the last year of his presidency, Harry Truman recognized that victory was no longer possible. U.S. forces were not losing, but neither were they winning. As in Iraq, they were caught up in a vast, bloody and expensive holding operation. Two-thirds of the American public disapproved of the Korean War in which 34,000 Americans died. Paradoxically, the Korean War has never officially ended; both sides still maintain an armed truce and no peace treaty has ever been signed.

We fought another "wrong war" in Vietnam, where the U.S. armed forces contributed to the eventual stalemate by fighting the war they wanted to fight instead of the war they had been thrust into. Something like the deadlocked outcome of these two wars may be the best we can hope for in Iraq now, giving the U.S. an opportunity to withdraw and turn its attention to solving our own problems. The alternatives in remaining can only be an expanding civil war and an attendant bloodbath, political fragmentation, a torrent of refugees, and surging global terrorist attacks.

We have now had four dreary years of promises of imminent victory, changed tactics in the conduct of the war and exuberant sloganeering. Mismanagement has been rife. The Pentagon revealed recently that of more than a half million weapons turned over by the U.S. to agencies of the Iraqi government, only 12,128 had their serial numbers properly recorded. Some of these missing rocket propelled grenade launchers, assault rifles, sniper rifles and machine guns are now being used to shoot down helicopters and to kill American troops.

Coming on the heels of a succession of rigged no-bid contracts and evidence of graft and corruption, this gross error is disquieting. It makes appropriate John Kerry's searing question to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1972: "How do you ask someone to be the last man to die for a mistake?" Thirty-five years later, the question that must be asked of our government can be paraphrased to: "How dare you present a reverently folded flag to a family at a military funeral without telling them that their son or daughter died defending a lie?"

Yes, little has changed. We are still "waist deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool says to push on."

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Three Little Words: George W. Bush’s Infatuation with the Sound of His Favorite Phrase


President George W. Bush will be remembered for many traits of character and speaking style. Among the latter will be the soaring orations written by speechwriters and haltingly read piecemeal by him on state occasions. In consort with these are the language-torturing disjointed speech patterns that have earned him the title of President Malaprop. His earnest desire to be liked and to be seen as a great communicator with an innate ability to understand people’s problems is in stark contrast to his shallow penetration into any subject, his stubborn obstinacy and his inflexible unwillingness to concede error.

To cover these failings, he has fixed on certain expressions intended to convince listeners that he is not the incurious and unfeeling dolt many perceive him to be. One of these expressions, “I fully understand,” has become so ingrained in his speech patterns he can be counted on to use it in every public utterance, sometimes as many as three or four times in succession on a single occasion. To underscore for Postscripts readers how casual overuse of this expresion by President George W. Bush has made it into a meaningless stock phrase that can only leave listeners unconvinced of the President's sincerity, we append a small sampling of his careless employment of this now virtually meaningless expression over the past six years.

“And I am most pleased with the support we're receiving here, and I look forward to continuing to describe our efforts to our close friends and allies. And they will see in me a determination to succeed. And I fully understand that some over time may grow weary and may tire. But they'll realize the United States of America under my leadership will not. We must be successful in the war against terror." Press conference with President Kim Dae-Jung of South Korea, Seoul, South Korea, October 19, 2001.

“Well, I fully understand that some countries will participate with military forces, and others won't feel comfortable doing that. Some countries will be very good about sharing intelligence; other countries may not be so good. Some countries will be much more efficient about cutting off money; other countries may be a little lax about cutting off money. But the point is, is that the coalition is broad and deep and strong and committed.” Remarks made at the Portman Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China, October 20, 2001.

"I fully understand the consequences of what we're doing. We're changing the world. And the world will be better off and America will be more secure as a result of the actions we're taking.” Press conference, Washington, D.C., April 13, 2004.

“The other thing I want to do is to make sure that everybody can feel the great power of love. Again, I fully understand government's role is limited in love." Said at an “Ask President Bush” event, Niles, Michigan, May 3, 2004.

"I believe the decision to go to war was the right decision, particularly after September the 11th. And in this great country people are entitled to express their concerns, I fully understand that." Aboard Air Force One flying from Crawford, Texas, to a campaign rally at Las Cruces, New Mexico, August 26, 2004.

“I laid out a doctrine, David, that said if you harbor terrorists, you're equally as guilty as the terrorists, and that doctrine was ignored by the Taliban, and we removed the Taliban. And I fully understand some people didn't agree with that decision. But I believe that when the American President speaks, he'd better mean what he says in order to keep the world peaceful. And I believe we have a solemn duty, whether or not people agree with it or not, to protect the American people. And the Taliban and their harboring of al Qaeda represented a direct threat to the American people.” Said to NBC correspondent David Gregory, Washington, D.C., November 4, 2004.

“There is a certain attitude in the world, by some, that says that it's a waste of time to try to promote free societies in parts of the world. I've heard that criticism. Remember, I went to London to talk about our vision of spreading freedom throughout the greater Middle East. And I fully understand that that might rankle some, and be viewed by some as folly. I just strongly disagree with those who do not see the wisdom of trying to promote free societies around the world.” Said to NBC correspondent David Gregory at news conference, Washington, D.C., November 4, 2004.

“In the Cabinet, there will be some changes. I don't know who they will be. It's inevitable there will be changes. It happens in every administration. To a person, I am proud of the work they have done. And I fully understand we're about to head into the period of intense speculation as to who's going to stay and who's not going to stay, and I assured them that--today I warned them of the speculative period. I said, it's a great Washington sport to be talking about who's going to leave and who their replacements may be, and handicapping, you know, my way of thinking.” Press conference, Washington, D.C., November 4, 2004.

“Certain issues come quicker than others in the course of a legislative session, and that depends upon whether or not those issues have been debated. I think of, for example, the legal issue--the legal reform issues, they have been--medical liability reform had been debated and got thwarted a couple of times in one body in particular on Capitol Hill. And so the groundwork has been laid for some legislation that I've been talking about. On an issue like tax reform it's going to--tax simplification, it's going to take a lot of legwork to get something ready for a legislative package. I fully understand that. And Social Security reform will require some additional legwork, although the Moynihan Commission has laid the groundwork for what I think is a very good place to start the debate.” Press conference, Washington, D.C. November 4, 2004.

“And I'm looking over the--I fully understand some people are concerned about whether or not this is affordable. And at the appropriate time, we'll address that aspect of reform.” Discussing Social Security reform at thee first news conference of his second term, Washington, D.C., January 26, 2005.

"I fully understand that as long as I'm the president I will face criticism. It's like part of the job.” Press conference, Washington, D.C., March 16, 2005.

"Listen, one of the interesting things about September the 11th that I want you to understand as we have this discussion is that I fully understand that for some, September the 11th was an important moment and a terrible moment--and we appreciate the condolences of the people of the Netherlands--but for us it was a change of attitude. I mean, it changed a lot about how I looked at the world, and a lot of Americans, it changed how they looked at the world. I mean, it was more than just an attack; it was a whole mind-set." Youth Roundtable, Maastricht, The Netherlands, May 8, 2005.

"As a matter of fact, I fully understand that right here in the state of Wisconsin, a lot of people are counting on the Social Security check." Speaking about Social Security for younger workers, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May 19, 2005.

“What we're talking about today is new programs and plans with prescription drugs becoming available for our seniors. This is as much an education exercise as anything else, because I fully understand, and our government fully understands, many seniors don't want to change. They're not interested in change. And, therefore, what I'm telling you is, is that at least listen to what's available. You don't have to change if you don't want to, but at least be open-minded enough to listen." Meeting with senior citizens at Pueblo El Mirage RV and Golf Resort and Country Club, El Mirage, Arizona, August 29, 2005.

"Look, I fully understand there is--I guess, my reputation is, he sticks to his guns and--it's a very legitimate question, do you ever kind of understand that maybe that you've got to be somewhat flexible?" Press conference, Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, North Carolina, April 6, 2006.

"I fully understand the consequences of making such a decision. I was at church yesterday in Twentynine Palms. In the pew that I was sitting in was a mother and stepfather grieving for a guy who lost his life. And I knew that I would have to deal with this as best as I possibly can." Press conference, Irvine, California, April 24, 2006.

“I fully understand English is the key to unlocking opportunity in America. Part of the greatness of America is that we've been able to help assimilate people into our society, people from all kinds of backgrounds who have come here to seek a better life and become American, because we have the capacity to assimilate.” Press conference at Border Patrol headquarters, Yuma, Arizona, May 18, 2006.

"I fully understand the need for there to be simplicity in the documentation. It needs to be easy for somebody who is known and a person that is--makes a living on the other side of the border. There's--a lot of kids go to college in, like, El Paso, Texas, and they're living in Mexico, so they've got to go back and forth on a regular basis. So I'm familiar with this issue a lot, and I really do emphasize the need for us to be mindful of what a onerous program could mean to good relations, as well as facilitation of trade." Press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, July 6, 2006.

“And then the third area of conflict, the one that gets a lot of attention, as it should, is the sectarian violence taking place in Baghdad. And I fully understand that we've got to help the Iraqis deal with that. So my thinking is--and a lot of our strategy sessions revolve around how best to deal with this problem, and how best to help the Iraqis deal with it. And I've got some more work to do, and I'll come forth at the appropriate time and explain the way forward to the country.” Oval Office interview with Washington Post staff writers, Washington, D.C., December 30, 2006.

“And failure in Iraq, defeat of America, in quotes, will then embolden these extremists. They'll be able to recruit more. They'll be able to find more suiciders. They'll have resources at their availability, like energy if they were able to topple modern governments. In other words, these people have a plan. They have a vision of the world. And they intend to use murder to enact their vision. And I fully understand that. You know, some of my buddies in Texas say, “You know, let them fight it out. What business is it of ours? You got rid of Saddam. Just let them slug it out.” And that's a temptation that I know a lot of people feel. But if we do not succeed in Iraq, we will leave behind a Middle East which will endanger America in the future.” Interview with Scott Pelley of CBS 60 Minutes, Camp David, Maryland, January 14, 2007.

“Well--listen, I fully understand the president has got to convince the American people it's worth it and that we can succeed, and no doubt--and I've spent a lot of time during my presidency talking to the American people and educating the American people about the stakes and what we're trying to get done. And I fully understand, Jim, by the way, that the American people are going to say, okay, show us whether this works. When it's all said and done, what really matters is not my speech or my interview with you, but what happens on the ground. And that's my primary concern in coming up with something different, was that it was working in Baghdad, so therefore we've got to do something different. One option was to leave, one option was to step up--but let me talk about Baker-Hamilton." Newsmaker interview with Jim Lehrer, Washington, D.C., January 16, 2007.

“No, and no question about that. And that's why I'm having this interview with you. I'm trying to do my very best to explain to people why success is vital. In other words, people have got to understand that if we decide and we grow weary of--and there's a lot of war weariness in this country, and I fully understand that--and we say, okay, well, let's just leave; we can leave in stages, but let's just leave, or let's just pull back and hope that the Iraqis are able to settle their business, the consequences of that decision will be disastrous for the future of this country. And therefore, we got to keep working on ways to succeed, as far as I'm concerned." Newsmaker interview with Jim Lehrer, Washington, D.C., January 16, 2007.

“I fully understand it's going to be up to the Iraqis to solve their problems. I was hoping to be in a different position. In other words, I had hoped I'd be able to interview with you and say, well, you know, we're not needed as much anymore, but I fully recognize that unless the violence in Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq, the sectarian violence and the criminality is dealt with, then the political reconciliation necessary to unite the country isn't going to happen. And so I made a tough decision, and that is to reinforce our troops there and put a new commander there in the hopes of breaking the sectarian violence--or helping the Iraqis break it.” Newsmaker interview with Jim Lehrer, Washington, D.C., January 16, 2007.

"I told the American people I fully understand there are differences of opinion. But one of the things I have discovered is, in Washington, D.C., most people understand the consequences of failure." Press conference at House Republican Conference in Cambridge, Maryland, January 26, 2007.

“I fully understand it's going to be up to the Iraqis to solve their problems. I was hoping to be in a different position. In other words, I had hoped I'd be able to interview with you and say, well, you know, we're not needed as much anymore, but I fully recognize that unless the violence in Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq, the sectarian violence and the criminality is dealt with, then the political reconciliation necessary to unite the country isn't going to happen. And so I made a tough decision, and that is to reinforce our troops there and put a new commander there in the hopes of breaking the sectarian violence--or helping the Iraqis break it." National Public Radio interview with Juan Williams, Washington, D.C., January 29, 2007.

"I fully understand that if you read your newspaper articles--which I do sometimes--and listen carefully, you'll hear voices in both parties saying they don't like No Child Left Behind: It's too much testing, or, we don't want to be held to account, or whatever they say. The bill is working. It makes a lot of sense." Press conference, Washington, D.C., February 14, 2007.

“And it's a--at any rate, that's why I made the decision I made. Presidents have to weigh different options all the time. Look, I fully understand there are some who are--don't agree with every decision I make. I hope the American people understand I make those decisions because I believe it's going to yield the peace that we all want." Press conference, Washington, D.C., February 14, 2007.

“I committed to stay involved in the rebuilding of--gosh, a United States Senator, excuse me, Senator--and the Congressman, I beg your pardon. I committed to the people of this part of the world and the Gulf Coast that the federal government would fund recovery and stay committed to the recovery. And one of the reasons I have come down is to hear from you. I fully understand that there are frustrations and I want to know the frustrations. And to the extent we can help, we'll help. I told the people that I would work with the Congress to write a $110 billion check--the people of Louisiana and Mississippi, and that check has been written. And now it's incumbent upon us to get the money into people's hands."
Said March 1, 2007, at lunch at Lil Dizzy’s Café, New Orleans, Louisiana, after touring portions of the still-devastated Gulf Coast.

Apropos our linguistically awkward President's most recent use of "I fully understand," his favorite empty phrase: George W. Bush likes to call himself "The Decider"--but wonders never cease. Eighteen months after the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing period of unkept promises to restore the Gulf Coast region to economic viability, the wonder is that he would dare to show his face in a region still dotted with FEMA trailer colonies and proceed to lay the blame for both the untoward delays and the reconstruction debacle everywhere but upon himself.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?