Whatever one thinks of President Bush, no one can say that he lacks a vision or the ability to think big.
When he decided to oust Saddam Hussein and attempt to build an Iraq that is neither a threat to its neighbors nor to America as a base for terrorism, he started something that, if not successful, will multiply the number of terrorist demons and leave America and the world in even greater danger.
In his address Monday night (May 24) to the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., the president laid out his five-point plan to reshape Iraq and the entire Middle East. In doing do, he did not acknowledge the panic and fear sweeping Washington like the late spring heat wave. Instead, he listed the steps directed at establishing freedom and some form of representative government in Iraq.
Bush reminded the country (at least those watching on cable TV; the broadcast networks declined to carry it, preferring to put their own spin on the speech the next day) that this conflict is neither brief nor easy. He warned that "terrorism is likely to become more active and brutal" as the June 30 deadline approaches for the establishment of a sovereign Iraqi government. In fact, he said, terrorism is likely to continue after June 30. If there is to be success - and the president entertains no public doubt he will eventually achieve his goals - there must be security in the country. American forces have had difficulty properly training and equipping Iraqi military forces. This has resulted in extending the tour of large numbers of American forces, something the president acknowledged in his speech. No one wants to see a repeat of Vietnam where American-trained South Vietnamese soldiers were overwhelmed by their Communist enemies.
Ultimately, the president said, Americans will slowly withdraw but be available as part of an anticipated U.N. contingent, to support the new Iraqi government against terrorists who want it to fail.
I wonder if those who have switched from approval to disapproval of President Bush in the polls fully understand what is at stake in Iraq. Failure is not an option. If the United States fails to achieve its objectives, we might as well issue printed invitations for the terrorists to turn up the heat. They will surely gain new recruits and be emboldened to stage more outrageous attacks.
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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