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McCaffrey analyzes Bush's remarks on Iraq

Retired four-star general says Bush made an 'extremely strong case'
/ Source: msnbc.com

President Bush on Thursday in a speech before the National Endowment for Democracy reaffirmed his commitment to keep U.S. forces in Iraq.

"Against such an enemy, there's only one effective response: We never back down, never give in and never accept anything less than complete victory," Bush said.

The speech, given as poll numbers continue to show declining American support for the war, was viewed as an important one as Iraqis are set to vote on a new constitution later this month.

Minutes after the speech, retired four-star General Barry McCaffrey, an NBC analyst, told MSNBC's Randy Meier that he came away with a positive impression of what Bush had to say. 

"I think the president made an extremely strong case. The best argument he advanced is that a lot of things have gone right in the four years since 9/11. Intelligence services, law enforcement, the armed forces, homeland security, border patrol. The package has so far deflected follow on attacks on the American people," McCaffrey said.

"Inside Iraq, I think his argument correctly was that we've got to bring together some form of loose federal government. We've got to get some kind of pact - an agreement on a political mechanism, a new constitution; and finally, we've got to stand up Iraqi security forces, which he argues, I think largely correctly, is underway," he added.

While McCaffrey noted that the speech did not break new ground, he did note that it's content and tone came at a particularly crucial time for the president.

"I think the most important aspect of what he was doing - which he had to do - was to appear unwavering in his determination to confront the ongoing war insurgency inside Iraq and Afghanistan and to also commit ourselves to a decades-long struggle to build mechanisms to protect us from international terror," he said.

"Principally, it was his determination that I think people will come away from this speech in foreign lands saying, 'Hey, this guy isn't going to back off.'"

In the speech, the president quoted Osama Bin Laden, noting that the terrorist leader has said. "The whole world is watching this war and the two adversaries. It's either victory and glory, or misery and humiliation."

"The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. And we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror," Bush continued.

McCaffrey said that while this connection between the international war on terror and the civil war going on in Iraq was "the weak argument" of the speech, there is little doubt of the disastrous consequences if the U.S. were to now leave the country.

"I think many of us would argue that the consequences for being run out of Iraq, with a huge civil war in the middle of our energy supplies, would have severe consequences on foreign and economic policy for the next 20 years," McCaffrey said.

As for Iraq's future, the general is optimistic.

"I think personally, we're going to pull this off by next summer. I'd be surprised if we don't end up by next autumn with an Iraqi government that largely works, a low-grade civil war, a security force that works," he said.

"I think regardless of your viewpoint on getting in there, right now, it's hard to imagine a good outcome if we don't end up yielding an Iraqi government that can rule under some sort of laws."

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