Had it been a small group of liberals rather than conservative writers meeting with President Bush in the Oval Office on Tuesday, they might have run from the room like scalded dogs when he said: "I've never been more convinced that the decisions I've made are the right decisions." The president volunteered he knows people consider him stubborn and responds to such criticism with, "If you believe in a strategy ... you have to stick to that strategy."
Is this ignoring "facts" that things don't appear to be going swimmingly on the ground in Iraq? No, said the president. He believes the struggle will be a long one with "Islamo-radicalism." He said, "The politics of Iraq are going to just take a while to settle out. People still believe Saddam (Hussein) has a chance to come back." He acknowledged with hindsight "we probably could have trained people ... quicker," by which he apparently meant Iraqi troops, adding quickly, "there are all kinds of ways to look back," but "ideological struggles take time. We live in a world in which there should be, there needs to be, instant success ... things must happen rapidly." He said he thinks this comes from "too many TV channels" where even the most difficult situations are resolved in an hour or less.
Other points the president made regarding the Middle East included:
- "Fifty years from now, it is conceivable that there will be virulent forms of Islamo-radicalism competing. It's conceivable that moderate government be toppled and oil used as a political weapon. It is conceivable that a Middle East where young democracies have been undermined could be dominated by state sponsors of terror with nuclear weapons."
- "The long-term strategy is to change the conditions that enable this ideology to flourish, to out-compete it with better ideas." - He hopes to leave to his successors "foundations" for fighting terrorism and interrogating suspects that will allow future presidents to successfully wage the battle.
- About whether more troops are needed in Iraq: "If (Commanding) General (George) Casey feels like he needs more troops, we'll send them." He said he does not intend to repeat the mistakes of Vietnam during which tactical decisions about military strategy were made by civilians in the White House, and is leaving such decisions to the commanders on the ground.
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