My column, To many, winning is no option, takes Senator Webb to task for his response to the President's State of the Union address, and argues that we have lost focus on what should be our shared goal of victory in the war:
To many, winning is no option
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Last month I wrote about the Iraq Study Group report, saying they asked the wrong question. At the time I assumed every American wanted to win the war in Iraq, and therefore the question was not "how do we conclude the war," but rather "how do we win it?"
Our new senator, James Webb, gave the Democrats' response to the president's State of the Union address last week. In his speech, he again said the goal was removing our troops, suggesting paradoxically "not a precipitous withdrawal" but "a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq."
To support his contention, he cited President Dwight Eisenhower, who said of the Korean War, "When comes the end?" Webb noted that "as soon as he became president, he brought the Korean War to an end."
Webb is a well-educated man, and no neophyte regarding military history. But the Korean War is a great example of the wrong-headedness of pursuit of "conclusion" rather than "victory." The war was "ended" over 50 years ago, but U.S. troops are still in South Korea. North Korea is one of the greatest threats to our country and the world, and a constant source of trouble. Even Vietnam is less of a problem today than Korea.
Given the success of South Korea, one can imagine how much better it would be for the North Korean people, and the world, had we achieved victory rather than "conclusion." Of course, unlike Iraq, the Korean War was truly a civil war, and the result was probably the best we could do. But Korea is not the model we should desire for Iraq.
More revealing was the result of a poll taken after the president presented his new plan for Iraq. Fox News asked, "Do you personally want the Iraq plan President Bush announced last week to succeed?" Not "do you think it will succeed?" or "do you think there is a better plan?" but simply "do you hope we win?" I expected a vast majority of Americans would say yes -- because nobody wants us to lose.
I was very wrong. Only 51 percent of Democrats wanted victory in Iraq. A shocking 34 percent affirmatively called for defeat, while another 15 percent weren't sure if American victory was something they supported. My premise that all Americans think victory is preferable to defeat is wrong. Half the now-majority party not only expects us to fail, but they want us to fail.
So when the Democrats reject America's new Iraq plan, remember their opinion is clouded by their desire for America to lose. Their actions are guided by their hope that Bush's plan fails.
Winning clearly isn't a concern for Sen. Hillary Clinton. At a recent town hall meeting, she said the goal was to "bring the Iraq war to the right end." Or more accurately, to force President Bush to clean it up before she takes office: "I think it's the height of irresponsibility and I really resent it … we should expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office."
Still, I am not ready to concede defeat at the hands of the Democrats. Our country has a window of opportunity to win the war before the Democrats turn enough people against winning that it's politically safe for them to act.
In the past two months, the president replaced Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and the commander of the Iraq forces. He proposed a dramatic shift in tactics, based on the recommendation of his new defense secretary and his new general. The Senate confirmed both -- General Petraeus by unanimous vote. But the Democrats are trying to pass a "non-binding" resolution denying the new general the tools he said he needed to win when they confirmed him.
Both General Petraeus and Secretary Gates made it clear the resolution will embolden our enemies. They obviously thought that would matter to the new majority. But the Fox poll, and their own words, suggest that far from being concerned, such an outcome is acceptable -- anything to increase the pressure to withdraw the troops. Winning isn't an option for the Democrats -- some don't even see it as desirable.