Since the 2006 elections are fast approaching and the war is the most important national issue, wouldn't it be helpful to prepare a simple flow chart to compare the Bush administration's policy on the war with that of his Democratic critics?
One would think such an exercise would be unnecessary, since everyone knows what each side is advocating. But as ridiculous as it seems, no one has yet to flush out the Democrats on their position and the consequences flowing from it. They continue to hide behind their naked criticisms of President Bush and his policies, offering no intelligible alternative policy.
Nonsense, you say. Democrats are demanding withdrawal. Are they? To be sure, they make loud noises about withdrawal, but when Republicans have forced a vote on it, most of them have run for the tall grass. Instead, they throw out meaningless or misleading terms like "benchmarks" or "redeployment," which buy them more time to slander Bush without offering a plan of their own that can be evaluated or for which they can later be held accountable.
So let's proceed to construct a flow chart. On one side we have President Bush's clearly articulated position, which he reaffirmed at Monday's press conference. We will remain in Iraq until the mission is completed: when Iraqi security forces can provide stability and protection for the newly formed government. We will continue vigorous enforcement of the Patriot Act and the NSA surveillance program. We will encourage the ongoing sharing of intelligence between agencies, the tracking of terrorists' finances and will oppose terrorist-sponsoring regimes.
The Democrats' position is to emasculate the Patriot Act, the NSA surveillance program, and the monitoring of terrorists' finances. Their position on Iraq is less clear, and less unified. Most are demanding withdrawal, but only part of them really mean it.
The group that doesn't mean it clamors for withdrawal, but denies it is advocating "cutting and running." No, it favors "phased" withdrawal to be effectuated as Iraqi security forces are able to handle the primary security duties themselves. Policy-wise, this group adds nothing to the mix, so they add nothing to the flow chart. They offer only hollow, destructive criticism, which undermines the commander in chief and damages troop morale.
Nor is their insistence that Iraqi troops be trained more quickly a policy difference. Training is a matter of implementation. Everyone, including President Bush, wants the troops trained as quickly as possible. But all the carping from this group won't make it happen any faster, nor would their assumption of leadership. The troops will be ready when they're ready.
The other group presumably is demanding withdrawal immediately, or on a date certain, whether or not Iraqi security forces are ready to handle the job alone. This group's policy definitely makes the flow chart. But to complete the picture we need to examine its likely consequences.
If we withdraw before Iraqi forces are fully prepared, we'll hand the terrorists their first major victory in the war -- not just a successful, devastating attack on the order of 9/11, but a full-blown victory in Iraq.
It would be, in the words of President Bush, a complete "disaster." We would be sending the message that terrorism pays, that the West lacks resolve, isn't serious about the War on Terror and fails to understand the global reach and designs of the enemy.
It would be an invitation to terrorists to redouble their recruitment efforts, to increase their attacks, to stand in the way of any freedom-seeking peoples in the Middle East and elsewhere and to bring the war to America. It would tell terrorists that in lieu of defeating us militarily, they merely need to create enough havoc to wear us down to the point of surrender. It would greatly increase the likelihood that Iraq would become an enormous terrorist training camp dwarfing that of Afghanistan under the Taliban.
These horrifying consequences are why Democrats are so determined not to provide their "plan," so determined to remain off the flow chart.
They tell us such consequences would not be their fault, but President Bush's for attacking Iraq in the first place. Sorry, but Saddam was a serial treaty violator, a gathering threat and exceedingly terrorist-friendly. One of the major reasons the terrorists are fighting so hard to thwart the new Iraq regime is that it is terrorist-unfriendly.
Unless Republicans run a completely incompetent campaign, Democrats should still have an uphill battle in November because they can't afford to have the consequences of their policies exposed to the light of day. They'll do anything they can to remain off the flow chart. It's our job to put them on it.