Glimpsing the world through the kaleidoscopic world of liberalism, Richard Cohen of The Washington Post asserts that due to “the totally unforeseen incompetence of the Bush Administration,” Osama bin Laden has won. Mr. Cohen’s analysis is at once a masterful misappraisal of our enemy, an ignorant and politically charged preoccupation with with capturing bin Laden, a gross distortion of our accomplishments in Afghanistan, and a uniquely cynical comment on the vital work the U.S. and its coalition allies are performing in Iraq, which he calls “for naught.”
It may take years, but bin Laden will be captured or killed, but with the advent of splinter groups and terrorist proxies, his is a largely iconic influence, which is rapidly waning. Yet Mr. Cohen argues that having President Bush as his foe made him “so fortunate in his choice of enemies,” and that since the president told the international community to “shove it,” the U.S. is now reviled throughout the world.
It’s a profoundly tendentious perspective that argues that, our many setbacks and miscalculations aside, a President Gore or Kerry would have been more aggressive, deft, or successful against the Islamic jihadists. Indeed, it’s productive to recall that they and President Clinton had their chances in the 1990s and failed utterly to take action against this sea of troubles. Rather, they dithered and clacked their jaws in perfect unison with the U.N., while bin Laden and his associates snickered and grew stronger and more bold.
Leadership is an endangered trait in contemporary international politics. Indeed, with the exception of President Bush and British Prime Ministers Blair and Howard–the only stalwarts in the war against the jihadists–one is hard pressed to think of a major voice who has acted with principle against a protracted chorus of international criticism. Is it Mr. Bush’s fault that the genesis of Islamic extremism came to a baleful fruition on his watch, at a time when leadership in Western Europe has been so thoroughly feckless?
With respect to Iraq, Mr. Cohen smugly states that “We now know that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction,” but that is at best a highly misleading assertion. There isn’t one intelligence agency, not one member of Congress, not one leader in the free world, who didn’t believe that Saddam had WMD, and, indeed, he did. In fact, with the Harmony project still far from being complete, we may learn much more about that.
But the way Mr. Cohen describes it it’s as though we were accusing Sweden of having WMD. Saddam had a long record of genocide, of using WMD against his own people, of hegemonic ambitions with respect to Iran and Kuwait–therefore, this was, indeed, a barbarous despot and the Middle East is clearly better off with him out of power.
The majority of Americans implicitly understand that war is ugly, imprecise, and unpredictable. President Bush’s speech last evening was focused, deliberate, candid, and grounded in an unwavering determination to aggressively prosecute this battle against this evil as long as it takes. Indeed, in sixteen minutes Mr. Bush explained in detail what we’re up against, what it will take, and how important it is for the American people to understand that if we wish to preserve our way of life we have no option but to degrade this foe until it is effectively extinct.
Mr. Cohen’s effete, craven, and specious arguments pale when compared with the real world assessment of the direness of our predicament that the president provided. Our predicament is daunting, it is disconcerting, and its outcome is clearly not certain.
All that is–or should be–certain is our resolve to prevail, and our commitment to the values expressed in our Republic’s founding documents, which will carry the day. All of that is contingent upon our political will, which is itself dependent upon our ability to understand what is at stake.