America's enemies already know that it took 18 dead soldiers to prompt President Clinton to withdraw U.S. troops from a humanitarian mission in Somalia in 1993. During the first Persian Gulf War (led by the first President Bush), our enemies became too familiar with America's willingness to not finish what we've started.
Yet somehow, some of America's friends do not understand the need for Bush to stick to his pledge to keep U.S. troops in Iraq until there is a "regime change" -- which happened -- followed by a stable, democratic government -- which hasn't happened and won't happen soon.
It will be "a while," L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator of Iraq, told NBC's Tim Russert on Sunday. "I don't know how many years."
In Bremer, America has a diplomat who knows better than to create a set number at which eager critics can snipe if it's not met. Bremer, like Bush, knows how to focus on a long-term goal.
Bush spokesman Ken Lisaius noted, "The president has said that we're going to see this mission through so Iraq can be stable and Iraq can be secure and Iraq can be on a path to democracy.
"The president is not going to put a timetable on it because it's such an important mission. He's going to see it through."
Yes, the United States will make mistakes along the way. But the biggest mistake would be to let the snipers turn victory into defeat.