From the Washington Post:
Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a new benchmark now, and it’s called “return on success.”
Even before President Bush took to the airwaves Thursday evening, one of those mysterious unnamed “senior administration officials” explained the principle in a news briefing: “The more we succeed, the more troops we can bring home from Iraq. The president calls this policy ‘return on success,’ and that will be a major emphasis of the speech.”
And darned if it wasn’t.
When a measured, somber President Bush addressed the American public in prime time, he explained “return on success” as “the more successful we are, the more American troops can return home.”
Success, like expectations, is a word supple with ambiguity. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it as a “favorable or satisfactory outcome or result.” Victory, meanwhile, is “final and complete supremacy or superiority in battle or war.” Yeah, there’s a difference.
“It was clever,” Hurlburt, a speechwriter for the Clinton administration, continued, “but trying to force a business metaphor in there is out of whack with where most Americans are on Iraq. There might be tiny groups of people who think business metaphors are an appropriate way to think about what needs to happen in Iraq. But regardless of where they stand on the war, most people see it framed in terms of great sacrifice and a great national security risk, none of which business metaphors are applicable to.”
From the L.A. Times:
Bush’s description of his war aims reflected two hard realities about his position on Iraq.
First, a large majority of the American public does not believe “victory” is possible. Dozens of opinion polls have found that fewer than 40% of voters think the war can be won.
Second, the men who are running the war — Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker — made it clear this week that their immediate goals were more limited than “victory.”
Where the United States once hoped for a peaceful, united Iraq governed by a Western-style parliament, Petraeus and Crocker described more modest goals: reducing sectarian violence, avoiding all-out civil war and encouraging self-rule with a strong role for tribal sheiks who are not elected.
“I cannot guarantee success in Iraq,” Crocker said in hearings before Congress. “The challenges. . . are immense.”
Petraeus shied away from even using the word “success.” When a senator asked whether the United States had “a realistic chance to be successful” in Iraq, the general carefully replied: “I believe we have a realistic chance of achieving our objectives.”
Bush expressed a hope that his decision to allow the drawdown of troops to occur on schedule would bring supporters and critics of his policies together.
“The way forward I have described tonight makes it possible, for the first time in years, for people who have been on opposite sides of this difficult debate to come together.”
There was no sign that such a hope would soon be realized. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and other Democrats denounced Bush’s proposal even before he spoke. Pelosi called it “a path to 10 more years of war in Iraq.”
But Bush’s target was not so much his opposition in the Democratic Party as the increasing number of war critics in his own Republican Party. Bush’s plan for drawing down the troops, one aide said, should make it possible for members of Congress “to be for success in Iraq and for beginning to bring troops home.”