Bill Murchison

In the world-saving business, it's always something.

The British public is alienated over the war in Iraq. Protesters clog London on the occasion of President Bush's visit there, asserting their sovereign right to say anything absurd that comes to mind. Saddam tapes another message, excoriating the United States. Two U.S. helicopters collide in midair over Mosul, and 17 more American troops die.

The Bush administration advances the timetable for extricating us from the alleged Iraqi "quagmire," and -- lo! -- the talk in Washington and elsewhere is of how hope for a democratic Iraq "now looks like even more of a long shot," as two Wall Street Journal reporters put it.

In other words, as we used to say in small-town Texas, it's durned if you do and durned if you don't. (Contemporary usage, which I sometimes succeed at ignoring, is likely more explicit.)

A couple of considerations are, nevertheless, worth keeping in mind.

First, this is how it goes in the media age. It's not just that everybody is an "expert." It's always been that way. The point is that everybody today enjoys in unprecedented degree the means -- blogs, personal Web sites, talk radio -- of advertising his expertise far and wide. What we are talking about here is a First Amendment thing.

That treasured amendment says nowhere that only wise and judicious sentiments may be voiced. It implies that idiotic sentiments will be voiced. As they are. This can work hardship on national leaders trying to make national policy, but interestingly, cacophony of speech is one of the very things the United States is trying to make possible in Iraq. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that Howard Dean and the editorial writers of The New York Times will yet have a lucid thought on Iraq. We should remain open to that extraordinary possibility.

Second, there is likely no perfect outcome. ("Perfect" from whose standpoint is a relevant question. George Bush's? Kofi Annan's? John Kerry's?) This may be one reason critics of the war are so unspecific in their criticisms. Turn it over to the United Nations is about the only "answer" that ever comes from the antiwar left; that or just come on home now.

As we know, the United Nations doesn't want this can of worms, nor -- demonstrably -- does the mass of the Iraqi people want us to leave just yet. Anti-Saddam sentiment in Iraq belies all those fake referenda of old, wherein Saddam won every vote save those of the Iraqis he shot for not permitting him to win every vote.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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