President Bush was at his best tonight: serious, detailed, and above all, resolute. He spoke to many audiences.
To the public weary and grieved by the death of many of the finest Americans, the president spoke of the crucial issue: “For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.”
It isn’t, he explained repeatedly, just about giving Iraqis hope, but maintaining American security for all of the reasons he detailed.
Iraqis who desire peace heard the commitment, but they also heard its contingent nature: The Iraqi government has run out of time to dodge the tough choices.
Our enemies did not hear what they had hoped to, a declaration of surrender, whether phrased as a “timetable” or a simple “We quit.” They know that as long as Bush as in office, they will not win in Iraq.
Crucially Iran heard a hint of measures beyond the borders of Iran, though in the sort of terms that none can object to. When the president spoke of destroying the networks aiding the terrorists, he meant the Quds Brigades and the other Iranian agents at work in Iraq, and the placement of the paragraph cannot be misunderstood.
And to the military and their families, he said thanks, and set an example for all Americans. Even as the debate carries forward, we cannot often enough remember that all of the cost is born by the men and women in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps Coast Guard, National Guard. and their families. The “decisive ideological struggle of our time” is being waged by them, and even the most sincere critics of the president’s policy ought to convey that criticism while keeping in mind that not only are the troops real time observers of this debate, so too are our enemies.