Foolish consistency, it has been written, is the hobgoblin of small minds.
Events in Iraq over recent weeks suggest that expectations were overblown
and dangers underestimated. We have a bit of a mess on our hands, one that
our military and policymakers have not managed all that well. It is time
for a change in tone and policy.
I am not casting blame to ridicule anyone, because the mission in Iraq was
always a tough nut. I include myself among those who underestimated the resistance
we could expect. After 30 years of murder and catastrophe under Saddam, I
was confident that most Iraqis would welcome a new chance at self government.
I did not believe hatred of the West would outweigh self interest. That calculation
hangs in the balance.
But I also had anticipated a policymaking team on site (and I include Iraqis)
that understood how to manage the complex political dynamics of the area.
That has proven a too optimistic expectation, as it turns out.
And that means President Bush owes the nation and our allies a new approach,
one rooted in refreshed energy, optimism and humility. One such approach
was laid out quite convincingly just this week by Senator Joe Biden on Thursday,
Biden sounded like an old-fashioned John Kennedy Democrat. He did not belittle
the mission, which he agrees is noble. Nor did he belittle the President,
for whom he showed respect if honest disagreement on some issues. In fact,
Biden made it quite clear that only one person has the capacity to improve
the current situation. Not the 9/11 Commission. Not Senator Kennedy. Not
Jesse Jackson (who I suspect would not go near the region right now). Not
even Joe Biden. The President, Biden argued, is the only human being capable
of ensuring that the mission in Iraq is not lost.
Unlike many on the Democratic side, Biden understands the stakes. If we do
not stabilize the situation, it will be a major blow to the anti-terrorism
effort. Not only that, it will be a blow to regional and even world-wide
stability. If the power vacuum is filled by the acolytes of Bin Laden or
Al Sadr, the lives of all civilized people will be endangered and diminished.
It is that simple. We are fighting fascists. They do not believe in human
rights, much less a bill of rights. They have no respect for international
law -- they don't even give it lip service. The Geneva Accords are as meaningless
to them as United Nations resolutions.
Biden understands this far better than most of his Democratic colleagues.
In a reasoned, fair and tough appraisal of the situation, he laid out a plan
that made three basic points, all of them valid.
1. The United States needs to decrease and the international community increase.
This might be a tough sale, given the situation, but I have argued for a
while now that the Bush administration's refusal to leverage other major
powers and even the Arab states more systematically has been a mistake. It
is time for him to eat a little humble pie. Lives depend on it.
commission should be set up headed not by an American, but by a respected
international player. If America's leadership is so resented as to derail
the effort in Iraq, we should step aside and let a credible representative
take over for Paul Bremer.
the short term, we need more troops to stabilize the situation. Biden supports
this and so, it now appears, does the Bush administration.
anyone support the United States at this point. Biden's answer was simple
and correct: because their own survival and stability depends on it. Islamic
fascism has lost the capacity to make moral distinctions. Its advocates do
not care if their bombs blow up innocent men and women in the United States,
why would they care if they blow them up in Egypt? Turkey's refusal to give
the United States access to northern Iraq (a major blow, it turns out) did
not deter the fascists from setting off bombs in Istanbul. France's reluctance
to tackle Iraq did not stop terrorists from plotting to kill French citizens.
Bush has made some mistakes, but he has taken the measure of the enemy in
a way that too many have not. Biden's presentation is a reminder that he,
Joe Lieberman and Zell Miller, and perhaps a few others on the Democratic
side, get it. And they have also shown that one can disagree with the Bush
administration without resorting to shrill rhetoric, absurd charges and political
hatred. Biden's seasoned, mature and honest approach should be a model for
discussion as we debate our vital national security issues. (Ted Kennedy
should take a sedative and fade away.)
Because I care more about our soldiers and civilians than I do about the
election, I even pray that John Kerry will study the Biden approach and try
to emulate it. This might bolster his chances. But, after all, if he is elected
president, our nation will still face Islamic fascism and a war that is not
likely to go away. Our nation can ill afford again the missteps of previous
Democratic administrations. And we need not repeat the mistakes made by the
Bush team either.
Biden is right. This war is too important, the cause too just, the mission
too noble, to be lost on the shoals of political partisanship and miscalculation.
I hope the Bush administration was listening. Given the tragedy that has
unfolded in recent weeks, it is the least they can do.
Shadroui has been published in more than two
dozen newspapers and magazines, including National Review and Frontpagemag.com.
Email George Shadroui
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