Bush's Premature Emancipation Problem
This weekend, the United States launched "Operation Mountain Thrust" in Afghanistan. Featuring 10,000 U.S. troops and American aircraft targeting the peaks along the border with Pakistan, the spring offensive seeks to decimate a resurgent and emboldened Taliban. Sadly, that would be the same Taliban President Bush declared non-existent two years ago.
This weekend's fighting in eastern Afghanistan may have killed 90 guerillas, but it also served to highlight President Bush's penchant for prematurely declaring victory in his wars fought on the cheap. During a September 27, 2004 campaign event in Ohio, Bush to the cheers of "four more years" proclaimed:
"And as a result of the United States military, Taliban no longer is in existence. And the people of Afghanistan are now free. In other words when you say something as President you better make it clear so everybody understands what you're saying, and you better mean what you say. And I meant what I said."
As it turns out, not so much. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow on Sunday, who recently referred to the 2,500 American war dead in Iraq as "just a number," set the record straight. Fast-forwarding from his boss' election-year crowing, Snow admitted:
"I think what the Taliban is doing - and it's predictable - is that they are trying to test in the south, where the U.S. forces are handing over to NATO...But A, it's predictable, and B, in the encounters, as you know, the Taliban fighters have overwhelmingly been losing. Now, I think it is predictable...you can expect there to be pushback by the Taliban."
Of course, this is not George W. Bush's first bout of premature emancipation. On May 1, 2003, Bush stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in front of a massive banner declaring "Mission Accomplished" and announced, "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." But by June 2004, the President was forced to acknowledge reality, admitting, "this mission isn't easy, and it will not be accomplished overnight."
When Bush made those arrogant boasts of lightning victory, his popularity was stratospheric. Perhaps that arrogance is just another explanation for why his poll ratings came - and went.