War is the mother's milk of politicians. The latest example of this, of course, is the War on Terror. This is George W. Bush's big claim to fame. If 19 guys hadn't pulled a dastardly act on September 11, 2001, George W would have no legacy whatsoever. Prior to that time his administration was floundering trying carry out the perennial Republican agenda of lowering taxes for the wealthy, trashing Social Security, and eliminating programs designed to help the poor. 9/11 gave him his chance for a unique and appealing legacy: he defended America from the threat of terrorism.
A little history is in order. From 1945 to 1989 the US fought the "Cold War." Of course, a war always has to have a unique name. "Cold War," "War on Terrorism," something catchy. For 45 years or so politicians built their careers on the Cold War. Now they are salivating at the prospect of fighting the War on Terror for the next 50 to 100 years or more. All they have to do to get elected is to stand up and say America will never back down to terrorists. Remember the guys who were painted as being "soft on Communism?" Well, now, those same guys will have to prove they are not soft on Terrorism, that they'll stand tall and never back down to a Terrorist. The guy who is the most macho at playing this game will be the guy who gets elected.
George W. Bush is the innovator of the War on Terrorism. His main goal is to convince America that the dastardly acts of 19 mainly Saudi citizens is tantamount to a declaration of war. He gets to be a "wartime President" and we all know that they are the most compelling kind. Stop to consider for a minute. Wouldn't the acts of the aforementioned Saudi citizens and such a ragtag bunch as al Quaeda call more justifiably for a skirmish on terrorism rather than a war? But what President wants to preside over a skirmish? No, the Bush propaganda machine had to build this up into a war. And you can't have a war unless you go ahead and invade a sovereign nation, hence the war in Iraq. But why didn't they invade Saudi Arabia where most of the 9/11 terrorists were from? Because Saddam Hussein was an easy mark. Because the propaganda machine had already sufficiently demonized Saddam Hussein that nobody would feel sorry for him if he were overthrown. So you need a war not a skirmish. You couldn't have conservative commentators like Ann Coulter get up and defend the Bush administration's egregious flaunting of the Constitution unless you could justify it by saying "We're at war!" If it were just a skirmish, illegal wiretaps would be out of the question.
Getting back to "how to get elected." Just start a war and then claim you're the best (most macho) one to defend America and the other guy is soft on (blank). You fill in the blank: Communism, Terror etc. How much mileage the Republican Party has gotten out of this formula! How they demonized first Dukakis with the Will Horton ads and then the clippage of a silly looking Dukakis riding around in a tank. Obviously, he wasn't "hard" enough to be President. How clever they are to take a war hero like John Kerry and then make him look stupid riding around in a Swift Boat.
Consider Bush's job: Propagandist in Chief! His main job is to convince the American people that the war in Iraq is necessary. If we thought for a minute that thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars were too high a price to pay to get rid of a tin horn dictator, well then, Bush's legacy would turn into a pile of crap. Even his Republican base would turn on him. The war in Iraq is necessary to preserve George W. Bush's and Cheney's and Rumsfeld's egos. Therefore, it will continue as long as they're in power regardless of "events on the ground." When the pressure gets too great for them, they simply talk about bringing home the troops "next year," and this lets the steam off the pressure cooker of the anti-war movement. Whewww!!The troops are coming home next year. We can all relax! Of course, next year everyone will have forgotten about that particular news cycle, and the troops may or may not come home depending on whether or not the Generals (who take their orders ultimately from none other than George W) think they should.
So George Bush's main (only?) job is to convince the American people that war is necessary, that we have to "finish the job" and "stay the course." To bring the troops home would be to admit that the Bush administration was wrong and then what legacy would they have?
American power can at least maintain a presence in Iraq indefinitely and certainly until Bush leaves office. If all the troops came home the next day after Bush leaves office on orders of a Democratic President, the Republicans can argue ad infinitum that the Democrat, whoever the unlucky fellow or lady might be, lost the war in Iraq, and that if the Bush doctrine had been followed by the next President all would have been well thus preserving (at least as argued by conservative commentators) a fig leaf of the Bush legacy. Bush was the guy who stood tall and defended America. The next guy was a weak MF who lost the war on terror. Oh the mileage they'll get out of that one!
In summary, the Bush administration's ego could not possibly permit bringing the troops home. It is out of the question for them even to entertain the possibility that at some point we would reach the pass where vanquished American lives and lost treasure would be considered to have been squandered in vain. American lives and treasure must continue to be spent to support the Bush administration's ego. To admit the whole thing was a colossal mistake would be to lose face totally. Therefore, the Propagandist in Chief must continue to give speeches written by the best speechwriters the Republicans can muster in order to win the hearts and minds, not of the Iraqis, but of the American people.