Shifting the Iraq Debate

September 13, 2007

I am constantly amazed that in the ongoing debate over the Iraq War the central question that ought to drive our decision is seldom considered. We focus on the difficulties in staying the course and achieving the mission, but rarely discuss the consequences of abandoning it. This is sheer insanity.

Following General David Petraeus’ congressional testimony and based on his recommendations, President Bush outlined his plan to reduce troop levels in Iraq to their pre-surge levels by next summer. Quite predictably, Democrats immediately proclaimed their opposition to the plan.

In the face of this impressive report and General Petraeus’ stellar reputation for competence and good character, I can think of only a few reasons Democrats would remain in obstruction mode.

Sadly, Democrats have boxed themselves into a defeat scenario, having placed every single one of their eggs in that basket since before the 2006 elections.

If they suddenly begin supporting the war effort they’ll be wiping those eggs on their faces and admitting the error and unfairness of their ongoing criticisms of President Bush. They will also be placing themselves in other boxes: the dog houses of, Daily Kos and other rabid antiwar groups pulling their puppet strings of failure.

Their suggestion that General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are dishonest mouthpieces for the administration is nothing more than a case of psychological projection of their own predicament.

It was hard not to be persuaded by the sober, balanced testimony of these two gentlemen — so much so that even wobbly, reluctant Republican Senators have returned to supporting the mission. But Democrats, led by Senator Harry Reid and the slew of Democratic presidential candidates, remain wholly intransigent in their opposition.

The surge has yielded significant military successes, beyond our rosiest expectations. The Democrats’ goal post-shifting response is that despite any military gains, we are making no progress politically.

But many believe the government is making progress, though not nearly as much as would occur absent the underlying climate of violence. Military progress is an essential predicate to political progress, and we are establishing that predicate. In addition, as General Petraeus noted, it’s not an insignificant “political” development that local tribes have begun to turn against Al Qaeda in support of our troops and the new government.

Establishing a new republican government would take significant time even if the process weren’t impeded by war. Just think of the staggering arrogance of Democratic lawmakers in castigating the Iraqi parliament for failing to achieve consensus in a fraction of the time it took the new American government to become stabilized. This is even more apparent considering their own unwillingness to support their commander in chief during war.

Apart from rank partisan calculations, another possible reason Democrats stand willing to forfeit our gains is they don’t believe in our mission. They don’t believe it is a just war, that it is part of the war on terror or that Al Qaeda in Iraq is part of Osama’s Al Qaeda. They believe our continued presence in Iraq is detrimental to Iraqis and our national security.

Considering the gravity of the stakes involved, I wish our national debate would finally focus on the validity of this set of assumptions. Instead of couching the debate only in terms of the difficulties involved in persevering, why can’t we also ponder the importance of the mission and the unthinkable, inevitable horrors should we withdraw? A fair hearing on these questions might just move people in droves to the side of staying the course and winning this war that we simply cannot afford to lose.

We should discuss whether it’s reasonable to conclude Iraq is not part of the war on terror in light of the facts that:

— Al Qaeda and the terrorist states of Iran and Syria are the primary instigators of ethnic violence and chaos there, and videotapes indicate Osama and/or his disciples retain a laser focus on Iraq.

— If we withdraw in humiliation and dishonor to ourselves and in betrayal of the Iraqis, many of whom are just now turning the corner by trusting us and working with us against Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda’s cause will be energized and its recruitment will skyrocket.

Which makes more sense: trusting the judgment of military commanders closest to “conditions on the ground” in Iraq and with no political ax to grind, or that of partisan armchair generals on the left aisle of the Senate with little to no expertise and no constitutional authority to act as mini-commanders in chief?

Which position do you suppose Osama is rooting for?