When I helped elect President George W. Bush in 2004, I did so not because of my faith in his intellect, values or policies. I voted for him because I thought he was the best leader for our nation, for our troops and for our future.
And I have to be honest; I have begun to question my faith in our president’s leadership abilities, especially in the past week.
On Tuesday President Bush stated the war in Iraq ”will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq.”
When I first read this quote my heart sank, and the first thought that jumped into my mind is that the president, like so many Americans, has given up – given up on finishing what we started with our war on terror and given up on creating an exit strategy from the hornet’s nest that is Iraq.
The president continued by saying that any decisions about troop reduction from the war front would be up to the generals on the ground. In two sentences, President Bush basically said the war in Iraq is no longer his responsibility, and that others will have to make the tough decisions regarding the future of our war effort. That, ladies and gentlemen, is poor leadership.
It is the responsibility of a leader, especially one as important and prominent as the commander in chief, to instill faith in those they lead. Those who are being led must feel that their leader is in the trenches with them, fighting the same fight they are and working just as hard to solve the problem set before them. This fundamental leadership style – leading from trenches – is vital for a cohesive and successful operation.
Yet, with his comments last week, Bush effectively left the trenches, throwing up his hands as if to say, “I’m spent; I think someone else is going to have to figure this one out.”
If I was one of the many brave solders fighting on our president’s accord in Iraq, I would be hugely disheartened to hear that my highest commander didn’t know how to get me out of the desert, and instead is hoping his successor will have a better idea of how to remedy what ails our nation.
James Ross, an associate professor at CSU who teaches U.S. security and foreign policy, pointed out in an e-mail interview that President Bush’s comments might not have been addressed to our troops or even the voting public.
“The president has to play to many audiences, including a domestic majority that has grown skeptical of the war effort, an international community that has been against it from the start and a growing insurgency in Iraq whose goals include U.S. withdrawal,” Ross wrote. “He may be simply stating the obvious, that U.S. policy in Iraq, and the Middle East generally, will remain actively engaged so long as the U.S. has vital national interests at stake, a policy that spans well over a half century.”
Although I understand and agree with the professor’s perspective, at the end of the day, all, including his most important audience – the U.S. citizenry – hears the president’s public comments.
As a member of that highly important sector, I must say I have lost a lot of faith in my president’s leadership. I have yet to elect the next president, and until I help do so in two years, it is Bush’s responsibility to handle the matters of my nation and do his best to solve them.
Right now our nation is at a crossroads, a junction that will determine the country’s destiny for years to come. I have heard the many comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq and, until now, I have not fully bought into them. Yet, it is not a stretch to now compare Bush and Lyndon Johnson, two men who may not be remembered for why they started a war, but instead, why they did not finish it.
Bush has two years to recover from his comments and actions, two brief years to prove that he a leader worthy of the 62 million votes he earned in 2004. To do so, the president’s only choice is to get back in the trenches and show that future presidents will be responsible for dealing with their own agenda, just as he is responsible for his, because until 2009 he is the leader of the free world and must act as such.
Jake Blumberg is a technical journalism and political science double major. His column runs every Monday in the Collegian.