By that I do not mean we, as America, are bigger or better than Iraq as a country. I mean that that sum of our national existence is not bound up in what happens there. The country will go on. Whatever happens, we'll recover from it. And whatever might happen, there are things that matter much more to this country's future -- like whether we have a functioning military any more, whether our economy is wrecked, whether this country tears itself apart over this catastrophe. But we'll go on and look back at this and judge what happened.
Not so for the president. For him, this is it. He's not bigger than this. His entire legacy as president is bound up in Iraq. Which is another way of saying that his legacy is pretty clearly an irrecoverable shambles. That is why, as the folly of the enterprise becomes more clear, he must continually puff it up into more and more melodramatic and world-historical dimensions. A century long ideological struggle and the like. For the president a one in a thousand shot at some better outcome is well worth it, no matter what the cost. Because at least that's a one in a thousand shot at not ending his presidency with the crushing verdict history now has in store. It's also worth just letting things keep on going as they are forever because, like Micawber, something better might turn up. Going double or nothing by expanding the war into Iran might be worth it too for the same reason. For him, how can it get worse?
And when you boil all this down what it comes down to is that the president now has very different interests than the country he purports to lead.
Exactly. People, Bush needs this war. It's been the focal point of his entire presidency: he was planning it from the beginning (as we now know), he did everything he could and burned all his credibility convincing us to go along with it, he's spent most of his 2 terms waging it, he based nearly his entire 2004 campaign on it, he's sacrificed his approval ratings, his entire domestic agenda, and even his own party's congressional majorities (and, in all likelihood, their '08 presidential candidate) in sticking with it this long. It defines his presidency and will define his legacy. If the war fails, or if we end it before some definable "victory," it's all over for him: he will lose what little relevance he has left and he will be forever branded a feckless, incompetent president who lost a war with the most powerful military in the world. As long as we're still in Iraq, however, there's a possibility, however small, that things might magically turn around and we may snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. And at this point, Bush has bet the house on it, because if we "win" in some way, the central action of Bush's presidency around which most other actions were geared is successful, all the questionable actions along the way are justified, and Bush goes down in history as one of the great war presidents.
For Bush, everything depends on victory in Iraq.
That's why he will stop at nothing to keep this war going, even lying about its success, installing Prime Minister after Prime Minister, arming all the different factions as he bounces between allies, and staying even if funds are cut and letting your kids run out of bullets.