Me: So, what did you think of the President’s 9/11 speech?
My son’s friend: That was terrible, wasn’t it?
Me: What did the President say that he should not have said and what did he not say that he should have said?
My son’s friend: Uh, I didn’t really listen that close, but I heard on NPR that it was really bad.
There followed a quite interesting discussion in which, in the end, we both agreed that Bush was doing all he could do, but not communicating it very well.
Along the way, my son’s friend parroted what I consider a brilliant Democrat party line. The Democrats, who have heretofore been rightly accused of have no idea what to do, have hit upon a winning line — “America should either commit whatever resources are necessary to win the war in Iraq or they should get out.” This is brilliant, because it will absolutely resonate with folks like me, who made the exact same argument (in my case as a teenager) relative to Vietnam.
But there is a fundamental difference between Vietnam and Iraq. In Vietnam, we stuck our noses in the middle of a civil war. There was no danger to the United States from a withdrawal, in which we basically admitted we shouldn’t have been involved to begin with. The Viet Cong were not about to start launching planes into our skyscrapers. In Iraq, quitting will have far more serious consequences.
I opposed our entry into Iraq when we entered Iraq (as Bookworm will testify) but I will admit that the one great benefit of our war in Afganistan and Iraq is that it has kept our enemies quite busy launching attacks over there, rather than on American soil.
However, Bush is in a no-win situation. The American public simply will not stand for the kind of all-out war that would be required to “win” in Iraq. Specifically, the American public will not support a nationwide draft and the American public will not support a war that involves large numbers of American casualties. On the other hand, Bush knows he cannot withdraw, because a withdrawal will be seen by our enemies as an extraordinary sign of weakness and will result in renewed attacks on American soil. Bush is doing as much as the American public will let him do (and more, which is why he is so unpopular), knowing full well that, for America’s sake, he may not do less.
I suggest that all who support Bush’s efforts ask those who oppose Bush what they would do differently. If they say they would win or withdraw ask them if they are willing to do what is necessary to win (they won’t be) and whether they are willing to deal with the inevitable attacks on American soil that will result from unilateral withdrawal (they won’t be). Only if we confront what sounds like an appealing line can we hope to prevail in this fight in November.