Bush Surge Speech – Reaction Roundup

I watched the speech last night and was unimpressed. Then again, I expected to be. After all, I read dozens of news stories and blog posts about Iraq daily, so by the time these things happen it’s all old hat. So, I decided to wait for the light of day and leave the live-blogging to others.

The big MSM stories and their ledes:

SABRINA TAVERNISE and JOHN F. BURNS, “Promising Troops Where They Aren’t Really Wanted,” NYT.

As President Bush challenges public opinion at home by committing more American troops, he is confronted by a paradox: an Iraqi government that does not really want them.

The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has not publicly opposed the American troop increase, but aides to Mr. Maliki have been saying for weeks that the government is wary of the proposal. They fear that an increased American troop presence, particularly in Baghdad, will be accompanied by a more assertive American role that will conflict with the Shiite government’s haste to cut back on American authority and run the war the way it wants. American troops, Shiite leaders say, should stay out of Shiite neighborhoods and focus on fighting Sunni insurgents.

Thomas E. Ricks and Ann Scott Tyson, “Intensified Combat on Streets Likely,” WaPo A1. [Video of speech embedded in article.]

President Bush’s plan to send tens of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi reinforcements to Baghdad to jointly confront Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias is likely to touch off a more dangerous phase of the war, featuring months of fighting in the streets of the Iraqi capital, current and former military officials warned.

David Sanger, “Bush Adds Troops in Bid to Secure Iraq,” NYT.

President Bush embraced a major tactical shift on Wednesday evening in the war in Iraq when he declared that the only way to quell sectarian violence there was to send more than 20,000 additional American troops into combat.

Yet in defying mounting pressure to begin troop withdrawals, the president reiterated his argument that the consequences of failure in Iraq were so high that the United States could not afford to lose.

In a speech to the nation, Mr. Bush conceded for the first time that there had not been enough American or Iraqi troops in Baghdad to halt the capital’s descent over the past year into chaos. In documents released just before the speech, the White House acknowledged that his previous strategy was based on fundamentally flawed assumptions about the power of the shaky Iraqi government.

Mr. Bush gave no indication that the troop increase would be short-lived, describing his new strategy as an effort to “change America’s course in Iraq,” and he said that “we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties” in the course of more intensive round-the-clock patrols in some of Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhoods.

Howard Fineman, “A Crisis of Confidence: Bush’s way forward may be sensible. But his face showed fear—and that’s no way to rally a war-weary nation,” Newsweek (online only).

George W. Bush spoke with all the confidence of a perp in a police lineup. I first interviewed the guy in 1987 and began covering his political rise in 1993, and I have never seen him, in public or private, look less convincing, less sure of himself, less cocky. With his knitted brow and stricken features, he looked, well, scared. Not surprising since what he was doing in the White House library was announcing the escalation of an unpopular war.

While I wouldn’t go so far as Fineman, the President’s delivery, Hugh Hewitt notwithstanding, was not among the handful of inspiring ones he’s given. I haven’t seen any flash polls, so I’m not sure if that’s my natural cynicism or a consensus view. If the blogs are any indication, though, it’s the latter.

Live Blogs:

  • Ed Morrissey: “A nice finish to the speech, and a journeyman effort in delivering it tonight. Will it change minds? I don’t think it will have that much effect.”
  • Steven Taylor: “I must confess, the rhetoric is tired at this point, as it all very similar to things has been said for years, but yet we are not accomplishing our goals and it is highly unclear that we will be able to do so.”
  • Carolyn O’Hara: “America, you need more patience, more sacrifice, more resolve. “


  • John Hinderaker: “I thought he came across as stiff, nervous, and anxious to get it over with. The importance of the issue seemed to overwhelm the President’s ability to communicate. I suspect that only a few listeners absorbed more than a general impression of what the new strategy is all about.”
  • Don Surber: “Bush’s style was Jerry Fordish. He looked sincere but occasionally stumbled. His subliminal message: Being president is a tough gig.”
  • Matt Yglesias: “It’s hard to see how will do these things without launching military attacks on Iran or Syria.” (I thought that, too.)
  • Pejman Yousefzadeh: “It would have been helpful if the President explained how the new Iraqi approach differs from the old Iraqi approach. It also would have been helpful if he explained how it was that he determined what number of American troops would be needed for any surge to be successful.”
  • Sean Hackbarth: “The big question: why is this any different?”
  • Glenn Reynolds: “The additional troops are nice, I guess, but I think it’s the shift in tactics — if followed through on — that will really make the difference.”
  • Bill Quick: “I think it speaks volumes that Bush says we will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria, instead of end that support.”
  • Jim Henley: “Others will tease out the contradictions, lies, pious hopes and regurgitations of the President’s speech. All I’ll say for now is that one of its purposes appears to be to continue laying the rhetorical groundwork for an attack on Iran.”
  • Bruce McQuain: “I want to believe it because, as mentioned, I want to see success in Iraq. I’m just not ready, even after his speech, to buy completely into this surge.”
  • Andrew Sullivan: “To back this anemic reponse to the escalating civil war requires us to abandon our empirical sense and the lessons of the past four years.”
  • Noah Shachtman: “[G]ive the President credit, at least, for driving out of Disneyland.”
  • Greg Djerejian: “No sale, I’m afraid.”

Not exactly the needed home run, it would appear. If you’ve lost Hinderacker . . .

Trackposted to Rightwing Guy, Perri Nelson’s Website, The Random Yak, The HILL Chronicles, stikNstein… has no mercy, Pirate’s Cove, Stuck On Stupid, The Pink Flamingo, Dumb Ox News, Conservative Cat, Right Voices, and Gone Hollywood, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Not exactly the needed home run, it would appear. If you’ve lost Hinderacker . . .


  2. Stormy70 says:

    Powerline and The Corner never like Bush’s speeches. Powerline also predicted Bush and the Republicans would lose everything in 2004. They are never happy.

  3. Triumph says:

    I watched the speech last night and was unimpressed.

    The UNC/Virginia college hoops game last night would have probably been a better use of your TV-watching time.

  4. James Joyner says:

    The UNC/Virginia college hoops game last night would have probably been a better use of your TV-watching time.

    I tend not to watch regular season basketball, since there’s a one-and-done tournament that decides everything.

  5. legion says:

    The tournament is great fun, but conference titles are nearly as big a hoot, even for big-name teams – that’s one reason I watch college ball, but not the pros.

    On another topic, did anyone notice that we basically declared war on Iran last night?

  6. James Joyner says:

    did anyone notice that we basically declared war on Iran last night?

    It did seem that way. Yglesias and other noted that as well.

  7. LJD says:

    Does ‘basically declaring war’ include things like calling for the destruction of another country, making outright threats, kidnapping citizens, and providing weapons, training and personnel to kill members of another country’s military?

    Well, in that case, Iran declared war a long, long time ago.

  8. legion says:

    Well, we never kidnapped any Iranians prior to last night (that the CIA has admitted to :-), but if you count our support of Iraq in the 80s (including providing them with WMDs…) we’ve been engaged in that since the Embassy incident.

    I’m more concerned that we deliberately invaded sovereign Iranian territory (their consulate) with no input whatsoever from Congress. I’m extremely curious as to who ok’d that operation, and on what authority they did so…

  9. LJD says:

    Capturing foreign combatants in a bloody war zone, providing material and know-how to further the death and destruction, can hardly be referred to as kidnapping.

    You perspective is deeply disturbing, smiley face not withstanding.

  10. legion says:

    LJD, according to the article, we raided a consulate, arrested staff members, and confiscated “office equipment”. Unless those guys were actively shooting back (and I’ve seen no news claiming there was any gunfire involved), there’s no way in hell these guys fall under the heading of “foreign combatants”. I’m neither a lawyer nor a diplomat, but I’m pretty sure that unless there was active fire coming from the Iranian compound, there is no legal justification whatsoever for our troops setting foot there. That’s not just some bleeding-heart criminal’s rights liberal claptrap; it’s both US and international law.

    And the smiley face was purely for sarcasm’s sake; you know as well as anyone here we’ve kidnapped & detained foreign nationals outside the US before (sometimes with good reason, sometimes not).

  11. LJD says:

    In light of your defense of their ‘rights’ we had a damn good reason to go in. I’m sure the Iranians appreciate your support though.