Politics is a funny bidness sometimes. For example, when the popularity of a leader plummets he may suddenly have to resort to totally new tactics, such as apologizing for being a macho man. That's what happened to George Bush recently. He and his sidekick Tony Blair gave a press conference with the message "We Are Sorry! So Sorry! Now Like Us Again!", and George took back his famous cowboy statements:
But in an unusual admission of a personal mistake, Mr. Bush said he regretted challenging insurgents in Iraq to "bring it on" in 2003, and said the same about his statement that he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." Those two statements quickly came to reinforce his image around the world as a cowboy commander in chief. "Kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people," Mr. Bush said. "I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner."
What would have been a more sophisticated manner? "Advance upon us, if you may" instead of "bring it on"? No, the problem was not just in what George said but that he also acted in the exact manner those early statements reflect. He saw the war as a cockfight or a computer game. Something without lots of dead civilians, in any case. Where was the necessary foresight or planning? Nowhere, it seems. Foresight and planning are not as macho as photo ops of a president clad in a flightsuit.
At least Blair apologized for an actual policy error:
Mr. Blair, whose approval levels have sunk even lower than Mr. Bush's, said he particularly regretted the broad decision to strip most members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party of their positions in government and civic life in 2003, leaving most institutions in Iraq shorn of expertise and leadership.
You know what? I worried about this before the war had even started, and I'm not especially well informed about Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein's party was the Baath Party it seemed fairly obvious that you had to be a member of it to get any civil service jobs, and that getting rid of all the Baathists would leave the country in anarchy.
Why didn't these two brave leaders of the Free World worry about it any earlier? Did they listen to any experts in the area? Did they ever plan for an occupation longer than a few months?
It's not enough for these two men to come out now and say that they are sorry about the whole mess but that we should help them get out of it. It's not enough, because they are not some semilunatic goddess blogger who has no power over people's lives. They are the people responsible for running vast countries and they should have known better. The costs of their stupid mistakes are mouldering in graves right now and can't hear the belated apologies.
But the press conference wasn't just about apologies. It also contained a little bit more macho huffing and puffing:
Mr. Bush called the terrorists in Iraq "totalitarians" and "Islamic fascists," a phrase he has used periodically to give the current struggle a tinge of the last great American-British alliance, during World War II.
I'd call the terrorists demented madmen, myself, but it's interesting that Bush uses the qualifer "Islamic" when calling the enemy fascist, perhaps to distinguish them from the Christian variety of fascists. And the reference to World War II makes me frightened, because I sometimes think that Bush would like to be remembered as the man who started World War III.
That's enough of a rant for today.