From Editor and Publisher.com :
How Bush Caught the 'Feaver' in Big Iraq Speech This Week
By Greg Mitchell
Published: December 03, 2005 2:05 PM ET
NEW YORK In his major speech this week outlining a strategy for Iraq that might turn around public opinion on the war, President Bush used the word victory 15 times against a backdrop of dozens of “Plan for Victory” signs.
Is victory really in our grasp—-and was the talk based more on changing poll results that really setting a wise course in Iraq? The questions will gain even more relevance with a revelation coming in Sunday’s New York Times.
It seems that in a part of the 35-page “Or National Strategy for Victory in Iraq” document posted on the White House web site, a few key strokes by those in know reveal that the document’s originator or author, is one “feaver-p.”
This person is Dr. Peter D. Feaver, a 43-year-old Duke University political scientist who joined the National Security Council staff as a special adviser in June. White House officials, while saying the document contained contributions from many federal departments, confirmed, according to the Times, that “its creation and presentation strongly reflected the public opinion research” of Dr. Feaver.
Feaver, the Times’ Scott Shane writes, “was recruited after he and Duke colleagues presented to administration officials their analysis of polls about the Iraq war in 2003 and 2004. They concluded that Americans would support a war with mounting casualties on one condition: that they believe it would ultimately succeed."
This past June, the Washington Post observed that Feaver's studies had already "helped influence the White House thinking."But Christopher F. Gelpi, Feaver's colleague at Duke and co-author of the research on American tolerance for casualties, tells the Times on Sunday that this week's 35-page report "is not really a strategy document from the Pentagon about fighting the insurgency. The Pentagon doesn't need the president to give a speech and post a document on the White House Web site to know how to fight --the insurgents. The document is clearly targeted at American public opinion."
Dr. Gelpi said he had not discussed the document with Dr. Feaver, who declined to be interviewed by the Times.
E&P has learned that Feaver is on leave from Duke until at least August 2006. According to his curriculum vitae, obtained by E&P, he describes himself as "Special Advisor for Strategic Planning and Institutional Reform, National Security Council Staff."
The study he did with Feaver, along with Jason Reifler, challenged the post-Vietnam view that Americans will only support military operations if casualties are low. Rather, they declared, based on a study of recent polls, that public acceptance for the Iraq war depended much more on feeling that the war was a worthy cause--and even more, a belief that the war was likely to end well.
Feaver is a lieutenant commander in the United States Naval Reserve and received his doctorate from Harvard University. While he served on President Clinton's National Security Council staff in 1993 and 1994, he has written critically of Clinton and other Democrats and sympathetically of President Bush in a variety of publications, including The New York Times and The Weekly Standard.
E&P research has found that:--In a June 24, 2004 op-ed for The Washington Post he wrote: "The Clinton record on military operations was clear: frequent resort to low-risk cruise-missile strikes and high-level bombings, but shunning any form of decisive operations involving ground troops in areas of high risk. The Clinton White House was the most casualty phobic administration in modern times, and this fear of body bags was not lost on Osama bin Laden. Indeed, al Qaeda rhetoric regularly 'proved' that the Americans were vulnerable to terrorism by invoking the hasty cut-and-run after 18 Army soldiers died in the 1993 'Black Hawk Down' events in Somalia..."
Last October in another op-ed article in The Washington Post, Feaver declared, "Despite an extraordinary effort to woo the military...the Democrats still have not overcome their traditional tone-deafness when it comes to civil-military relations."
He lists on his curriculum vitae a series of talks he gave in England in 2002, titled alternately "Casualty Aversion and the CNN Effect" and "Casualty Phobia, the CNN effect and U.S. involvement in Low Intensity Operations."
Appearing on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS in April 2004 he downplayed reports of civilian casualties in Iraq, noting among other things that "when newspaper reporters go out and collect information, and they ask people how many people died, and they faithfully report that number, that number has, is almost certainly inflated upwards."
And, in an online chat at The Washington Post's web site on March 6, 2003, just before the Iraq invasion, Feaver said the following:--"A fair reading of the past 18-months would show that this Administration has tried fairly and responsibly to persuade the American public of the wisdom/need for the course of action the President wants to pursue."--"It is simply a fact that Iraq is bolstered by the anti-war protests and is pursuing a wedge strategy hoping to isolate the Bush administration on this issue. So whether or not that is the intention of the war protestors, it is one of the results. One of the reasons why the war protests have not been more persuasive is precisely because the protestors have not come to terms with the net result of their actions and have not presented a credible strategy for dealing with Iraq."
"President Bush subscribes to the momentum theory of politics: that success breeds success, and political capital accrues to the one who spends political capital....But the danger is that it can lead to over-reach -- if President Bush misjudges popular sentiment while pursuing this strategy he is likely to fall much further/faster than a more cautious politician who triangulated every issue and never tried to lead public opinion anywhere. "For that reason, public sentiment is probably more important for President Bush than for other presidents -- he is trying to do more and is willing to get out in front of the public more than other Presidents and this makes him more exposed."
Greg Mitchell (firstname.lastname@example.org)