December 09, 2005,
The president should do more to involve Americans in the war.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This piece appears in the December 19, 2005, issue of National Review.
Anyone with a minimally dispassionate sense of history would have to judge that George W. Bush conducted the Iraq war brilliantly. Yet he has been dogged from almost the very first moment by restless disaffection. Self-styled experts, many of them retired military men, complained of the plan of battle, of the shortage of troops, of the speed of the march on Baghdad, of the failure of supply and an all-too-eager press was on hand to echo them. The chorus of the disaffected grew ever louder after the fighting stopped: There was unchecked looting, there was no electricity, he ought to dismantle the Iraqi army, he ought not to have dismantled the Iraqi army, many of our allies were becoming disenchanted, our soldiers were out of control and torturing prisoners, and on and on. Each day brought its own quota of complaints. Finally lady luck began to smile upon the prophets of doom, for in the wake of Saddam Hussein, there came a second war. This was the war of disguised combatants and murderous roadside bombs, a war of terror seemingly without end.
And so at last: an indisputable, authentic quagmire.
Thus each and every death in Iraq was to be given full publicity. Thus liberal columnists and editorialists were to take an ever dimmer and more troubled view of their country’s government and its policies, while others claiming to be Bush-administration supporters would offer their stern chastisements more in sorrow than in anger. Thus anti-war demonstrations were to flower once more on the usual college campuses. And thus a woman named Cindy Sheehan, ostensibly in memory of her son killed in combat, would set about to open up the dungeons wherein languished the pro-Soviet, pro-Castro, pro-Che radicals of yesteryear, happy once again to be let out into the sunshine of flashing cameras and long-suffering cops. In the immortal words of the immortal Yogi Berra, it was “déjà vu all over again.” Indeed, someone only recently arrived in this land might have trouble believing that the young American men and women fighting in Iraq are there by virtue of volunteering to serve.
As for the party out of power, aside from its cadre of committed leftists, some of its refusal to recognize the achievements of the United States in Iraq is simple politics: Since the election of 2000, the Democrats have continued to nurse a sense of grievance over the means by which George W. Bush came into the presidency. Moreover, that handsome old World War II slogan, “Politics stops at the water’s edge” (first enunciated, be it remembered, by the anti-Roosevelt Republicans), did, though just barely, manage to influence the manners of partisan behavior through the Korean War. And after that came Vietnam. . .
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