As Josh Marshall says, the speech actually lays out a very Powell-esque policy, which is a good thing. Notice that the framework for the debate has been changed drastically. It is no longer an issue about preemptively attacking a nation which could be a threat at some vague future time. It is no longer about (at least, not explicitly) removing Saddam Hussein from power. No, it is about enforcing pre-existing international law. Iraq is in violation of a host of Security Council resolutions adopted in the wake of the Gulf War. Bush wants the U.N. to authorize the use of military force to bring Iraq into line with international law.
That was Thursday. It changed a little bit yesterday. Despite the fact that I didn't read or watch any news yesterday, nevertheless, I was bombarded over and over again by the same message. I heard it on talk radio (I frequently listen to conservative talk radio to keep me informed about the ground war tactics of the Republican political machine), I saw it in newspapers that others were reading on the train, I heard about it while channel surfing waiting for "He-Man" and "Transformers: Armada" to come on. If the U.N. doesn't get on board with the U.S. position in a matter of weeks, not months, then the U.S. will go it alone. Everytime I read or heard that, I mentally added "Fuck you, you pathetic pansy-assed little faggots," because that attitude toward the U.N. is quite clearly contained, though not expressed, in the U.S. position.
So, where does that leave us? There are a lot of elements to unpack here. The Thursday position represents a huge roll-back for the White House. Basically, the lost preemption. The so-called "Bush Doctrine", the wholly new, post-9/11 way of doing things in the world, collapsed under the weight of its own speciousness on Thursday. Funny no one seems to think that's worth mentioning. Friday, the U.S. clutches to grasp at the one thing the conservatives think they can salvage from this international shitstorm of anti-Americanism they've created: unilateral action. Unilateral action is vital for lots of reason. First of all, conservatives don't like Bush talking to the U.N. at all. They the U.N. is our enemy, and we shouldn't even be a member. This view is reactionary beyond belief, and it represents just how out to lunch the far-right of the Republican party really is. They are still living in 1954, and they are still pissed off about Brown v. Board of Education, but that's another story. Second, unilateral action rescues the possibility of a pre-election invasion, which is exactly what the White House wants. This is sickening on so many levels. George Bush is ready and willing to sacrifice human lives, American and Iraqi, in furtherance of his retrograde political ambitions.
I don't know if we will launch an invasion before election day or not. I do think that it's a politically risky move for Bush, since many polls are showing that there is not very strong American support for unilateral American action against Iraq. The best thing Bush can do, if he really wants to invade Iraq and he really wants to be politically rewarded for it, is to continue to work within the U.N. But then, he further alienates his hard-right core supporters, because the more he talks to the U.N., the more he resembles his father, and he can't control the timeline for invasion to get the maximum political effect out of it.
I'll have more to say on this topic next week, but I'm obscenely late for a party at my friend Craig's house.