Monday, June 19, 2006

Tony Snow's Battle of the Bulge

New White House Press secretary Tony Snow was all over the Sunday talk shows yesterday spewing lies and bullshit about administration policy, the Iraq war, the missing GIs in Iraq and, yes, the Battle of the Bulge. First, here's Snow comparing the Iraq war to the Battle of the Bulge on CNN yesterday:

The president understands people's impatience — not impatience but how a war can wear on a nation. He understands that. If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, 'Wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?' But you cannot conduct a war based on polls.

Now here's Josh Marshall's response:

For those of you who aren't familiar with the reference, the Battle of the Bulge took place as the Allies were moving across France and Belgium several months after D-Day. The Germans launched a counter-offensive the strategic objective of which was to force the allies to give up their goal of unconditional German surrender and force them to come to some sort of negotiated peace. The German effort was initially successful, opening up a large salient or 'bulge' within the allied lines. But the allies eventually recovered the lost ground. And I believe the general consensus is that the whole battle greatly accelerated the Nazis' eventual collapse because they lost a lot of armor and other resources in the effort.

In any case, you don't need to know those details to understand one key fact. The Battle of the Bulge began in the middle of December 1944. And it was over by the end of January 1945. So the whole thing lasted less than six weeks. It must have been an eternity for the American and British soldiers in this incredibly hard-fought battle in sub-zero temperatures. But in terms of time, or what Snow terms 'impatience', it's simply not comparable to the last three years in Iraq.

As for polls, I don't know about public polls. But the US government kept very detailed tabs on public opinion and war morale through the war. So I suspect something at least analogous to Snow's hypothetical poll was done. And I'm confident that it showed very few if anyone saying anything like that.

Snow's point isn't just historically silly, it's morally obtuse and cynical. It shows as much contempt for the public as the White House seems to have for our soldiers in the field. For the United States, the situation in Iraq is close to unprecedented in the last century in terms of the duration of time an American president has left a war policy on autopilot while more and more evidence comes in that it's simply not working. Even in Vietnam, for all the mistakes the US made there, Richard Nixon kept escalating the conflict. There's at least some strategic movement on the policy brain scan. I'm not saying that's preferable. And I don't want to get into an argument about bombing Cambodia. But it is at least different from letting a flawed policy grind through money and men for three years because you don't have the moral courage to rethink it or adjust course. It's denial elevated to the level of high principle.

Remember what the president said: getting out of Iraq is something that's going to be up to the next president. He or she can get started in 2009.

The spin on Iraq is coming fast and furious from the administration and its apologists. They're trying desperately to show the Zarqawi killing and the forming of the Maliki government is major progress in the war and they're trying to wrest enough patience on the Iraq issue out of the American people to get them through the midterm elections.

These desperate moves aren't really about winning the war in Iraq, of course. As Josh Marshall notes, Preznit Bush has already decided that's going to be up to the next preznit (John McCain? George Allen? Mitt Romney?)

No, the administration and it's apologists need patience from the American people because they don't want to lose control of one or both houses of Congress in the November midterms.

In other words, this is all about domestic politics. Thus, the rhetorical excesses (i.e., the Iraq war is just like the Battle of the Bulge.)

Is it really understanding of what Tony Snow said to be a comparison of the Battle of the Bulge to our current situation in Iraq?
sorry: last post should say:

Is it really your understanding of what Tony Snow said to be a comparison of the Battle of the Bulge to our current situation in Iraq?
Are you asking me if I think Snow is comparing the current situation in Iraq to the Battle of the Bulge?

If so, yes, that's what he seems to be doing to me. He's saying, "Gee the Battle of the Bulge seemed to be a really bad time for the U.S. during WWII and if polls had been conducted during it I bet lots of people would have felt negative about things, but we stuck it out and lo and behold, we won the war! Gosh darn, let's do the same thing now!"

But as Marshall says, the Battle of the Bulge lasted from December 1944-January 1945. It is not analogous to Iraq.

Or do you read something else in what Snow's saying? If so, help me see it.
I think your summation of Tony Snows statement is accurate as long as you include the "poll" aspect of it, which I thought you were discounting in your original piece.
I probably wasn't as clear as I could have been with my statement. Sometimes, at the end of a long, busy day (or even at the beginning of not-so-busy days!), I find my writing is not as clear or as well-crafted as I intended it to be.
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