WSJ HAS IT RIGHT ON THE IMPLICATIONS OF CONGRESSIONAL WAFFLING ON WAR
The Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal (registration required) publishes a lead editorial today that hits the nail on the head vis-a-vis the waffling in the Congress on the war in Iraq, the regrettable capitulation of many Senate Republicans to pressure from the Dems, the lessons of Vietnam being ignored, Representative Murtha's misguided call for troop withdrawal, and the liars and amnesiacs in the Democratic Party.
It's been a bad week for the American war effort, not in Iraq or anywhere else in the field but in Washington, D.C. The American Congress is sending increasingly loud signals of irresolution in Iraq, including panicky calls for withdrawal.
There are many lessons of the Vietnam War, but two of the biggest are these: Don't fight wars you don't intend to win, and while American troops can't be defeated, American politicians can be.
There's little comfort in the fact that Senate Republicans stood up Monday to Democratic demands for a specific troop-withdrawal timetable. The GOP Senate leadership still put itself on record that it believes time is running short. No wonder Minority Leader Harry Reid is bragging of having "change[d] the policy of the United States with regard to Iraq."
Thousands of Iraqis have already died in our joint war against terrorism and thousands more risk their lives every day. And now they get accused of not understanding that this is all serious "business" by a Senator eight time zones from the front lines. Majority Leader Bill Frist did his reputation no good by allowing this spectacle, even if it was intended to give skittish GOP Members a voting alternative to the Democrats' withdrawal policy. The way our enemy will read this is: Even the President's party is losing its nerve.
The real profiles in courage were the 13 Republicans who voted "no" and refused to add their voices to this "signal." They are Senators Bunning, Burr, Chambliss, Coburn, DeMint, Graham, Inhofe, Isakson, Kyl, McCain, Sessions, Thune, and Vitter.
Every Iraqi thus has to calculate the prospects of victory over the terrorists against the risks of U.S. abandonment. The signal Mr. Murtha is sending is that the risks of abandonment are growing, and that Iraqis might as well sit the fight out. This will only make it harder to train an Iraqi army and thus more difficult for the U.S. to disengage with success. The Murtha pullout could well leave the U.S. facing the terrible dilemma of a far longer stay or leaving in catastrophic defeat.
The editorial's powerful conclusion:
We are told that among the papers discovered along with Saddam two years ago was one saying that the Baathists-turned-terrorists will know they are winning when a candidate for President of the United States calls for withdrawal from Iraq. Saddam and Zarqawi know the real lessons of Vietnam, even if too many Members of Congress do not.
The president, on his return from his overseas' trip to China, must communicate actively with the American people on the necessity of staying the course in Iraq and the grave implications of not doing so. And he must jettison the clutch of careworn cliches he thinks passes for analysis and enlightenment. That "stump speech" no longer resonates. Americans need a substantive progress report -- one in which no punches are pulled and their collective intelligence not patronized -- and the courtesy of insights heretofore not provided. It is not enough that he, Cheney, and Rumsfeld return fire in the Party of Amnesia's egregiously unpatriotic campaign of rewriting history and washing its collective hands, Pontious Pilate-like, of having supported the decision to invade Iraq and unseat Saddam Hussein.
I also think the president needs to get over to the war zone and with regular frequency to assess the situation on the ground and to gather information directly from field commanders unfiltered by Pentagon high-ups. As I have written previously, Abraham Lincoln regularly went to the battlefields during the Civil War (and travel and security were harrowing in those days), eschewing receiving intelligence reports in the comfort of the White House. Bush's infrequent trips to Iraq give the appearance (and maybe it is the case) that there are portions of Iraq not even secure enough for the president to feel safe.
Are we on the threshold of turning America's national security over to the convoluted thinking of the Cindy Sheehans, the Michael Moores, and the cut-and-runner par excellence (just ask Mary Jo Kopechne's parents), Ted Kennedy?