Monday, October 11, 2004

Toddling About in the Middle East

Every once in a while, President Bush forgets his terminology handbook and muddies the message. He tries so hard to follow Rove's framing rules, but as a non-English speaker, sometimes he has a little trouble. Paraphrasing some of my favorites, in order of utterance:
I'm a War President. I don't want to be a war President, I want to be a peace president. We have won the war in Iraq. We can't win this war. We will win this war. We don't want to send mixed signals.

Amazingly, in light of the fact that there's an extensive documented trail of his shifts on every position he's had, he either won't admit that he has been inconsistent, or he simply doesn't recognize it. The latter tends to be true among toddlers, which set me to thinking about the distinguishing characteristics of toddlers.

The Toddler

After some pondering, I've decided that, in the world of foreign policy, Bush appears to be a typical toddler.
Shocking as it may be to you (and onlookers), aggressive behavior is a normal part of your toddler's development. Still-emerging language skills, a fierce desire to become independent, and undeveloped impulse control make children this age prime candidates for getting physical. ... That doesn't mean you should ignore [his aggression], of course. Let your toddler know that aggressive behavior is unacceptable, and show him other ways to express his feelings.

How Does Bush Measure Up?
The Danger

Just about everyone remembers watching a toddler rush headlong into danger. It may have been your own child, a friend's, a neighbor's, or even a total stranger's. In any case, you probably remember that sudden panic in the pit of your stomach. Everyone has heard a story of a kind-hearted neighbor scooping up an errant little speed demon just in the nick of time.

In the foreign policy world, Bush made a toddler-esque headlong rush to war against a country that posed no threat and was not about to pose a threat. He toddled along into war, ignoring the adults around him, including top US Military strategists:
General Schwarzkopf, who became known as "Stormin' Norman" during the 1991 Gulf War, called for United Nations weapons inspectors to be given more time to assess whether Iraq had any illegal weapons.

and Christian leaders:
"We are concerned about the situation in Iraq," the leaders say in their statement. "We believe that the Iraqi government has a duty to stop its internal repression, to end its threats to peace, to abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and to respect the legitimate role of the United Nations in ensuring that it does so. But we also believe that the international community is weakened and respect for law undermined when national governments act individually rather than collectively to secure these goals."

The leaders express concern for the impact that military action would have on Christian-Muslim relations and the possibility that it would trigger an attack on Israel. They also say they don't believe that "all reasonable alternative means of containing Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction have been exhausted."

Signers include the Rev. Robert Edgar, top staff executive of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and NCC President Elenie Huszagh. Edgar is a United Methodist. Click for long list...

The Kind-Hearted Neighbor

The rest of the world, in trying to stop Bush from charging into danger, played the part of the kind-hearted neighbor that unfortunately, was unable to save the child from himself.

However, unlike the heartwrenching tragedy of a single lost child, Bush's tragic error brings death, destruction, and increased danger to all of humanity:
Indeed, war with Iraq is as likely to aggravate the problem of terrorism as it is to reduce it: It threatens to deflect our efforts from the struggle against terrorism, jeopardize cooperation from our allies, intensify hostility in the Arab world, and entangle us in further conflicts in the region.


The reactive posture of deterrence that Bush says is obsolete reduced the chances of disaster. Preemption increases the "nervousness" of weapons, the risk that they will be fired off before diplomacy has had a chance to work. In a crisis, knowing our strategic doctrine, any adversary with weapons of mass destruction might be inclined to use them first rather than suffer their destruction.

The Community

In all of these toddler stories, the community comes together, either to celebarate a rescue, or mourn an unjust death.

In this mistake of a war, the community is a heartbroken world in which thousands of broken families grieve in the wake of our Toddler President's blind dash to war - a war that makes toddlers pay with their lives:
... today’s armies fight on with hard drives and software, with white noise and satellites, with specks on monitors erupting in flames. And smart weapons create the same images of disfigured women holding expressionless children — head too small for the hospital pillow, body too short for the bed.

War has never fit children.[WARNING: graphic photo]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds more like an anti-war rant from the likes of Howard Dean.How can you consider this as a backing for John Kerry and his position on the war?

11:51 AM  
Blogger anon said...

This is great. Thank you for the brilliant analogy, not to mention the stomach it had to take to watch him long enough to come up with it.
Take care and please keep writing!

4:53 AM  
Blogger rhetoretician said...

Thanks Amy! ;-)

Anonymous, that's a great question. I'm a Kerry supporter in the ABB sense.

I am mostly concerned with looking at how the right "frames" issues with language, but occasionally I veer off to something that irks me about Bush or Kerry. This post is one of those.

Keep the comments coming!

9:39 PM  

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