A Tale of Two Speeches...
There has been a lot of fuss over two speeches in the past few days. One fuss, unfavorable, has been over Bush's pre-Iraq-invasion speech with the famous "Sixteen Words" (aka, the "Bush Liiieeddddd!!!™ speech). The other fuss, generally favorable, has been over "Our Tony" Blair's recent speech, with the oft-quoted pro-liberty, pro-democracy passage. Now I am not going to say anything either pro or con about the content or intended audience of either speech.* I'd just like to focus on the notion that admirers of the second and detractors of the first seem to share: the idea that political decisions still hinge in any sgnificant way on a politician's formal oration about it. (I am not including debate on an issue in this category; that's a different thing.)
I can only speak for myself, but I have never had my mind made up on any issue, easy or difficult, by hearing some pol give a speech about it. These days, by the time a pol has given a speech about something -- unless he is running for office -- it is either to summarize or explain a process that has already been set in motion (the Bush speech) or to summarize and declaim on some event that has already occurred (the Blair speech). People who are in a frenzy over Bush's speech and the so-called "lie" (which by the way anyone with the discernment abilities of a reasonably bright elementary school student could tell is merely a statement of acceptance of someone's -- in this case, British intelligence's -- report, but let's leave that aside for now) are acting as if the decision to go to war on Iraq had not already been made months before that speech. Mes amis, I must inform you that speech or no speech we were off to war.
The paeans and hosannas across Blogville for Tony Blair's speech are a tribute, perhaps, to his rhetorical gifts. I did catch a few minutes of his speech on C-Span and it did sound quite good, but I have little attention span for such things. (Besides, there is always a blog somewhere where I can get the rundown on whatever it was I was too lazy to watch.) But I don't see that his words made a difference one way or the other, except, of course, to give some of us pleasure and reassure us that he is, at least in the War on Terror endeavor, on "our side." Perhaps at least he recognizes that it's Britain's neck on the line as well as America's. But anyway, he is otherwise by all reports a socialist who is slowly leading the UK into the clutches of some semi-totalitarian future state, so I am not as ready to join the Tony Blair fan club as are some other people.
In any case, the anti-Bush, anti-war contingent should be horrified and the pro-Bush, hawkish club should be reassured at what the future probably holds. At this point we are in too deep to backtrack now. Even if it so happens that the economy tanks even further and the mopping-up in Iraq turns into some sort of Quagmire™ and Bush doesn't get elected for a second term, whatever Democrat candidate gets into office will be met with the same unpleasant reality that clonked Bush over the head: once terrorists from a foreign country kill thousands of your own citizens in your own country, there is no way you can go back to appeasing them with "just enough" carrots (in the form of aid and diplomatic tricks) to keep them out of your hair. For decades the West tried to pretend that the Middle East was a) not there, or b) not so bad as all that. They were wrong. Now we are in it for the long haul. A Democrat in the White House won't change a thing.
*Update: well, not much anyway.
Up-freakin'-date 2: Jebus, I can't win for losing. I thought I was pretty impartial in my bashing of the left and right sides when it came to their current pet issues. But I might as well have filled an entire post with "Noam sux, Bush rox!" written five hundred times. (Read my very first commenter to see what I mean.)Posted by Andrea Harris at July 21, 2003 07:00 PM