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W's Failed Wartime Leadership

August 31, 2004

During the first night of the Republican Convention in New York, John McCain and Rudy Guiliani were effusive in the their praise of President Bush's war-time leadership.
They are dead wrong. As the current situation on the ground and history alike show, Bush's conduct of the war has been misguided, ineffective and yes, cowardly. As Perrspectives detailed back in February ("The War President?"), Bush has failed because he has ignored the four real requirements of American wartime leadership:
1. Call on the American People to Sacrifice
After 9/11, President Bush in essence told the American people that when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. There was no call to arms, to national service, to pay for the war, for energy conservation, for energy independence. 1.4 million American servicemen and women are putting their lives on the line for our freedom; an American president should call on all of us to make every effort at home to support them.
2. Call for National Service
Not only did the President not make a call to Americans to sacrifice, he made no effort to ask for their service to the nation. Our armed forces are stretched to the breaking point, yet no Republican will countenance a draft to both expand our military and to unify the nation in the most democratic way for war. There has no been no call for national service to protect airports, ports, transportation hubs, border, nuclear plants and other sensitive locations. Perrspectives long ago called for a Civil Defense Force (or "home guard) for precisely these tasks.
3. Pay for the War
Every major American war has seen an increase of taxes to generate the revenue to pay for the conflict. President Bush's wartime tax cuts are unprecedented (remember the top tax rate in WWII was 91%). With a volunteer army in the field, the least Americans can do is pay for the war.
4. Prepare the Nation for Casualties
By letting the Northern Alliance and tribal warlords do our fighting in Afghanistan, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden lived to fight another day. 10,000 US troops are hardly sufficient to both pursue the regime remnants and enforce security outside of Kabul. If ever there was a time when the American people were prepared to accept US casualties, the aftermath of 9/11 was it. And with Iraq, where Bush callously invited insurgents to "bring it on", Americans cannot even see the returning fallen to honor their sacrifices for the nation.
President Bush continues to call himself "a war president" and his fellow travelers in New York echo him. But in reality, Bush's wartime leadership has been a dramatic and tragic failure. For all his bluster, Bush ironically has not been aggressive enough in asking Americans to fight the war against Al Qaeda. And that's because he simply can't. His political cowardice means he won't ask for sacrifice from Americans; his attack on national unity means he doesn't even have the language to make the request.
As Perrspectives has suggested, Democrats can and will do better.

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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