So, Bob Woodward has become the latest journalist to try to influence the upcoming mid-term congressional elections with a new book, State of Denial – a harsh critique of the President and senior members of his administration whom he contends are in such a state with respect to Iraq. Woodward alleges as evidence a refusal by Mr. Bush to: recognize the magnitude of the problem there; adjust course; level with the American people; or fire Donald Rumsfeld for his supposed singlehanded responsibility for most of the difficulties we now face.
A more careful and rigorous examination of who is in denial and about what would establish that there is actually a pandemic of the phenomenon psychologists call “cognitive dissonance,” whereby people don’t see what they don’t want to see. In fact, there are at least four States of Denial afflicting the national security debate and decision-making process at the moment:
1) President Bush’s critics are by-and-large in denial about the true nature of the war we are in. They hector him about Iraq, but fail to address what Mr. Bush has been saying for some time: We are in a global conflict with a totalitarian ideology bent on our destruction.
As the President has correctly noted, the adherents to this ideology – “Islamic fascists” – did not start attacking us when we liberated Iraq. While our efforts to help deliver a powerful Arab nation like Iraq from their grasp has reportedly become a “cause celebre” for the Islamofascists, they are not interested only in defeating us there. Such totalitarians are convinced, as their Iranian front-man Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has put it, that “a world without America is not only desirable, it is achievable.” Most of those who focus, as Woodward has done, on fault-finding about Iraq seem to deny that there are any connections between this War for the Free World’s Iraqi front and the larger strategy of which our efforts to prevail there are a critical part.
2) The President’s critics are usually stunningly silent on the implications of the “strategic redeployment” from Iraq that they recommend on varying timetables – apart, that is, from getting U.S. forces out of harm’s way (at least for the moment). Indeed, they seem to be in a state of denial about the ineluctable reality that, as the recent National Intelligence Estimate they are so fond of selectively quoting observed: “Threats to the U.S. are intrinsically linked to U.S. success or failure in Iraq.” In other words, those who advocate an admission of failure in Iraq may object to calling it “cutting and running,” but they cannot escape the global consequences of doing just that.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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