If the war to liberate Iraq continues to go well; if there are relatively few coalition and civilian casualties; if an "environmental disaster" does not occur with the mass torching of oil wells; if chemical and biological weapons are not used either because American threats of severe consequences have been heard or coalition forces have preemptively taken them out; if Israel is not hit with Scud missiles; if, in short, we achieve every objective, what will the naysayers say?
The gloom-and-doom prophets of disaster - from Jimmy Carter, to Walter Cronkite, to the editorial pages of The New York Times - ought to acknowledge they were wrong. But they won't. They were wrong about "peace through strength" that led to the demise of the Soviet Union, but they won't admit it. Liberal educators and liberal clergy have spent gobs of money on full-page newspaper ads that claim disaster will befall America for undertaking this noble venture to free an oppressed people and to make our own country safer and better able to defend itself against the "axis of evil."
One possible answer to the "what next?" question came up last Friday (March 21) during a discussion on ABC between anchor Peter Jennings, whose network has been the most negative - even cynical - about the Bush administration's Iraqi policy, and former White House advisor to three presidents, David Gergen. After lamenting (whatever happened to just reporting the facts?) that the administration has a "tendency" to "pretend" anti-war protests are not happening (and Gergen agreed - one doesn't get on ABC if one disagrees with "Peter"), Jennings left unchallenged Gergen's assertion that since "Iraq is putting up so little resistance" (why is that to be lamented since it means fewer casualties?) the United States will appear "to have been a bully."
Because their prophesied disaster has not occurred in the first days of the war - which would have given the United States, in the mind of its detractors, a deserved black eye - the fallback position of the naysayers is that in victory America will now be considered a bully.
The British use "bully " to label someone "first rate" or "a fine chap," but in Gergen's context it means "to treat abusively, to use browbeating behavior; one habitually cruel." Can any fair-minded person say we are behaving in a "habitually cruel" manner in Iraq? Have not the coalition forces gone out of their way to strike only military targets (as opposed to the habitually cruel homicide bombers in Israel who go after innocent civilians and Saddam Hussein who is an equal opportunity murderer?). Have we not declared our intention to install a democratic government in Iraq, run by Iraqis and not the United States, as soon as it is feasible?
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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