Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Bush can't win the war on terror
Let's be honest, it's impossible to win a war on terror. It's impossible to win a war that is fought against a infinite opponent that can be limitless, or limited, according to direction of political winds. But Bush has made winning the war on terror the defining symbol of his presidency, the platform upon which he is fighting this election, and he is sure that he can win it.

On April 13, Bush said: "One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we are asking questions, is, 'Can you ever win the war on terror?' Of course you can." On July 14 he said "I have a clear vision and a strategy to win the war on terror."

So why then, on the eve of the Republican Convention, his launchpad to election success, does George Bush have a rethink. Quoted on the NBC 'Today' show, when asked if the United States could win the war against terrorism, which he has made the focus of his administration and the central thrust of his re-election campaign, he replied "I don't think you can win it, but I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." Small alteration in wording, significant alteration in meaning.

That is a rather bizarre and central shift in rhetoric from Bush, and it makes rather strange reading at the opening of the Republican Convention. We have already seen how Bush is trying to move to the center of his base by using less fire-brand Republicans like Guilliani, McCain and Schwarzenegger as speakers at the convention, so perhaps it falls in line with this strategy. This may be a prudent strategy as we enter the final laps of the election race, but it does seem to be a risky strategy, as it may well be perceived as a weakening of his position in his central election promise.