There he was, yesterday afternoon:
Mister Bush, standing at the podium, preparing to address a chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars on the need to "stay the course" in Iraq. I couldn't resist. I turned the TV off.
But I heard and read plenty about his speech this morning. Long on abstract platitudes like "honor the sacrifices," "stay on the offensive," and "finish the task." Short on specifics like what exactly the "task" is or by what measures we might consider it "finished." And certainly no revelations on why we started it in the first place.
And, of course, comparisons of the War on Terror (including the tar pit in Iraq) with the two world wars. Which is like equating a nuclear submarine with a Labrador retriever. (They both go in the water. The similarity ends there.)
Mister Bush, of course, would like us to regard him as a Wilson or Roosevelt, even though he was a way to go to catch up with, say, a Millard Fillmore.
Both world wars were fought against sovereign states that fielded conventional, uniformed forces. Unlike the Global War on Terror (or whatever we're calling it today), the world wars had a military solution.
When we defeated our enemies' military forces in the world wars, our enemies' governments actually formally surrendered. (Versus the Iraq fiasco, where we worked it so there was no sovereign authority to surrender to us.)
In both world wars, Congress actually declared war authorizing the commander-in-chief to wage conflict against specific enemies. (Versus the GWOT, where Congress wrote the commander-in-chief a blank check to go out and whomp up on whoever he wanted wherever he wanted and for as long as he wanted to.)
Something Mister Bush failed to mention to his VFW audience: both world wars led to counterproductive end states. Termination of "the war to end all wars" laid the groundwork for World War II. "The Good War" produced the rise of the Soviet Union, The Cold War, and the nasty third world proxy wars that accompanied it.
In that regard, I suppose you could draw a parallel between the world wars and the woebegone business in Iraq.
Interesting choice of audience, that VFW chapter in Utah (that's a red state, right?). Looks like Mister Bush got tired of facing a roomful of icy stares from active duty military types.
I don't know for a fact that every veteran in the audience had to be a registered Republican and sign an oath of loyalty to Mister Bush, but given this administration's track record, I'd be surprised if that wasn't the case.
I don't especially like to project group mentality attributes on individuals, and certainly respect the contributions all US veterans have made, but...
Folks in groups like the VFW tend to suffer from a form of Pavlov's Dogs of War Syndrome. They still tend to think of a president--especially a "wartime" president--as their commander-in-chief, even though they're no longer in his chain of command. And folks who have been operantly conditioned to think that way will usually obey rather than question.
Which is just the kind of audience Mister Bush is used to addressing.