In a prototypically liberal analysis, E.J. Dionne argues that President Bush doesn’t have the kind of “silent majority” that was invoked by President Nixon as a rebuttal to Vietnam protesters. He further argues that our problems in Iraq are due not to liberals but to the “civilians in a conservative administration,” who find themselves “under increasing fire from leaders of the military and intelligence services for bad planning, flawed analysis and unrealistic expectations.” From there, Dionne predictably links Iraq’s problems with the minuscule portion of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was leaked over the weekend.
There are legitimate criticisms of the president’s execution of the war in Iraq, from insufficient boots on the ground to the complete lack of understanding of the post-invasion landscape. That stated, there is a “chicken and egg” argument that renders summary judgments about the degree to which our military’s presence has acted as a kind of magnet for Islamic terrorists difficult and therefore suspect. But there is no question that Iraq is now the locus of untold thousands of sectarian savages bent upon disrupting the fledgling and fragile democratic process. However, as much as the likes of Dionne would like us to believe it, that’s not the complete picture.
First, comparisons of virtually any kind between Iraq and Vietnam are made only by those thoroughly engrossed in the game of political advantage and therefore they should be strongly encouraged to recuse themselves before causing further embarrassment.
Second, those with knowledge of the NIE have stated that the quotes and fragmented summaries are truly not representative of the entire report, and today President Bush has vowed to release it to make that very case.
Most critical is that we must return to the fundamental facts in this war: The undeniably positive results of toppling of Saddam momentarily aside, Iraq is unquestionably the focal point of a horrific sectarian struggle in the Middle East and therefore clearly defines what is at stake if we do anything other than commit to remaining there until the Iraqis can assume responsibility for their own security.
Although the liberals’ appraisal of our setbacks and strategic flaws have political punch, they are completely academic and wholly beside the point because in the end we have no other choice but to keep the pressure on the Iraqis to stand up their military as expeditiously as possible so our troops can return home.
Indeed, there is not one American who wants us to remain there a moment longer than we must, but this is hardly the first time our troops have been in harms way during what appears to be a dispiriting and daunting war. To wit, return to 1917 or 1943 when the outcomes of those horrendous wars were far from certain and American boys were being killed at heart-rending rates, and with no end in sight.
The difference between those wars and this one is that the goal was far more obvious and so the resolve to stay the course was unequivocal. But the goal in Iraq, which is an integral part of our effort to at once degrade the Islamic extremists and to allow the chances for democratic rule in the Middle East to take root, are equally vital in our global effort to combat the extremists who are intent upon the destruction of the West.
President Bush and the Republicans must remain on the offensive by succinctly articulating how winning in Iraq is interdependent with the larger war against this stone-age evil, and must argue that when the Democrats try to isolate Iraq and define it as a failure for political purchase they are undermining our ability to fight the broader, longer-term war.
That amounts to aiding and abetting the enemy because you can be certain their efforts are covered by al-Jazerra and the multitude of radical media outlets across the Islamic world–not to mention our mainstream media which is always prepared to faithfully report America’s shortcomings, especially if they translate into criticisms of the Bush Administration.
That may sound harsh but during times of war we simply don’t have the luxury to immunize against tough criticism people who constantly point out our failings but who have articulated no viable alternative policy.
When their resoluteness on national security is challenged the left reflexively responds that their patriotism is being questioned. In truth, it’s not about patriotism, it’s about winning.
Mells is Founder and Editor of ClearCommentary.com