The Bush administration left its own rear guard exposed.

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
April 1 2003 3:00 PM

The Bush Backlash

In its dash to Baghdad, the administration left its own rear guard exposed.

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Ironically, the only abused party not to have sought some form of payback yet are the Democrats, whose own views on national security are so incoherent that they have shunned debate entirely and preferred to cower meekly on the sidelines, hoping the whole storm will somehow pass them by.

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When millions of people around the world took to the streets in February to oppose the coming war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair engaged them repeatedly and directly. Acknowledging their right to dissent, and even the nobility of some of their motives, he nevertheless answered their charges point by point, patiently and eloquently explaining why he favored the course he did. George W. Bush, in contrast, made a crack about not listening to focus groups, while his supporters charged the demonstrators with lunacy or perfidy.

All this, and not simply a few unexpected guerrilla attacks in Iraq, is the background to the soft support the administration's war management has received to date. The saddest part of the story is that it didn't have to be this way. A less cocky, less high-handed, and less deceptive approach to war might actually have won over many doubters, not simply forced them into temporary submission. But having given no quarter along the way, the Bush crowd should hardly be surprised now when they receive none in return.

Gideon Rose is managing editor of Foreign Affairs.

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