Last night, the president added rhetorical flourish on his central strategy for Iraq: as the Iraqis stand up, America will stand down.
"Iraq's leaders know that our commitment is not open-ended", said the president. They have promised to deploy more of their own troops to secure Baghdad-and they must do so."
The problem is, plenty of Iraqi troops have already deployed with great effectiveness in their country-against our troops, that is, and to defend or advance the interests of their sect, against other Iraqi sects. Given this reality, both the surge of U.S. troops and even the training of Iraqi government troops are beside the point. Iraq has an ample supply of very well trained "troops", but they stand ready to fight for their militias, not for an Iraqi state with highly questionable longevity.
The president also said: "This war is more than a clash of arms-it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance." Just how America's decider-in-chief came to decide that this ideological struggle could tilt in favor of America through the open-ended, foreign occupation of Muslim territory remains mysterious. Certainly, there is no "ideology-replacement" setting on an AK-47, and the notion that military force could affect the kind of amorphous and unbound ideological notions that germinated in Washington was always a chimera.
There is an ideological struggle unfolding in the Muslim world, and Bush continues to put at a "decisive" disadvantage those ideologies that buttress stability and progress in foreign lands and American power abroad. Bush is correct, war is more than a clash of arms-it can have profound implications for the country's ability to garner support and maneuver with both friends and foes on the world stage, not to mention for the fiscal state of America. The world sees America tethered to, and weakened by, Iraq and is acting accordingly. It also sees the superpower deploying its awesome military might in a destabilizing endeavor in Iraq, with profound consequences. Bush made another statement that resonates with significance: "the security of our nation hangs in the balance." Well put, Mr. President. And not only ours.
Ximena Ortiz is the editor of National Interest online.