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Friday, May 02, 2003

Hubristic or Just Cocky?-I didn't get to see the video of the President's speech, but the text seems to hit most of the right tone. The one nit-pick I'd have done to the speech was to move up recognition of the Brits and Aussies into the sentence were he said "Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment yet it is you, the members of the United States military, who achieved it." The one nit-pick that seems to be common, including Dr. Reynolds was that the use of the aircraft carrier with a Navy One touchdown with Dubya at the wheel was laying it on a bit thick- "The whole leader-who-flies-jets thing seems, somehow, Third World to me." It does have a bit of Alpha Male BSD show to it, but let's remember that most Third-World leaders don't have aircraft carriers to land their planes on (India would be about the only one I can think of with full-fledged carriers; the Peanut Gallery can remind me of others) and that 90,000 tons of diplomacy was used as a prop to send a message that the thugs around the world would easily get-"Coming soon to a despot near you!" The speech itself is ambitious. The dead-tree newspaper headline I saw at lunch referred to it as the unofficial kickoff of the 2004 reelection campaign, but there is a bigger campaign that beating Kerry, Lieberman or Dean next year-
Our war against terror is proceeding according to principles that I have made clear to all: Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country, and a target of American justice. Any person, organization, or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and equally guilty of terrorist crimes. Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups, and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction, is a grave danger to the civilized world, and will be confronted. And anyone in the world, including the Arab world, who works and sacrifices for freedom has a loyal friend in the United States. Our commitment to liberty is America's tradition -- declared at our founding, affirmed in Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms, asserted in the Truman Doctrine, and in Ronald Reagan's challenge to an evil empire. We are committed to freedom in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in a peaceful Palestine. The advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world.
Dubya’s just getting warmed up; the war against radical Islam is still going and won't end anytime soon. It's a war with combatants without uniforms and targets without borders; the British autoboomers in Israel is a chilling reminder of the global scope of the conflict. Andrew Sullivan's comments were-how do I put this politely?-provocative
But I agree with Glenn Reynolds that the whole backdrop, including the fighter-pilot entrance, was - how do I put this politely? - hubristic. It's one thing to arrange a beautiful and moving photo-op to commemmorate an historic event, as Reagan did so masterfully at Normandy. It's another thing to mark the end of a liberation by addressing the military and the nation at the same time.
Hubristic. "Sufficiently arrogant as to be asking for trouble" would be how I would translate hubris; "wanton insolence or arrogance resulting from excessive pride or from passion" is what my office dictionary has. I'm often associate a word in the context in which I learned it; I thought a "categorical" denial was one that was false and pro-forma since there were a lot of "categorical denials" of stuff in the Watergate era. I learned hubris in high school Western Lit as what would get the tragic Greek heroes in trouble; hero gets cocky, god does number on hero. However, I'm reminded of the old sports aphorism, "It ain't bragging if you can back it up." The US has been able to back it up in Afghanistan and Iraq. If anyone gets the hubris prize, it seems to be the paleoeuropeans; I can't think of a better place to hang the label "wanton insolence" than the Chirac administration. My Western Lit version of hubris has the hero getting too big for their britches, and the US has the resources to back up most desires it might have. The one place where the charge can get laid is in the Bush administration's willingness to give the middle-digit salute to the paleoeuropeans when needed-"Who does he think he is to turn his back on the UN?" He's a Champion of Freedom®, that's who he is. He's going to confront tyrants rather than try to start the umpteenth round of diplomatic negotiations. That's going to look arrogant to liberals and paleoconservatives, who tend to have a more pessimistic view of the US and the world. Dubya’s team are optimists, the true progressives. I think back to the old Bobby Kennedy saying-"Some people look at what is and say 'Why?' I look at what could be and ask 'Why not?'" Rather than explaining and tolerating the bad things around the world, this bunch is going to try and do something more that financing another overpriced factory or another corruption-ladened anti-poverty project, looking to get rid of the despots. Mullah Omar and Saddam were just the first two stops on the tour. I'm not sure what the third stop will be, but there are plenty of candidates. I'll echo Josh's comments, it's not cocky, it's cool.

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