Almost every Democratic candidate makes it sound as if we've done everything wrong for the last two years. Dick Gephardt, who voted for the war in Iraq and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Bush after 9-11, now says virtually everything the president has done since then has been a "miserable failure." Almost moments after Saddam was toppled, Howard Dean said he "guessed" it was a good thing that Iraq had been liberated. Heaven forbid he be certain one way or the other.
To commemorate the second anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, The New York Times declared in an editorial that Americans must come to accept that 9-11 was really just "a local and particular, rather than universal, event." Moreover, the certainty that comes with patriotism is becoming a major problem because it tends to "divide Americans." Therefore, "We need to fear and temper that kind of rigidity."
More significantly, the chattering classes as a whole have gone bonkers about America's domestic efforts to defend itself from terrorism. Self-declared experts on civil liberties explain that the Constitution is being shredded. Librarians are literally burning their records to keep the federal government from getting them, because civil liberties groups on the right and left have concocted a threat to libraries found nowhere in the Patriot Act. Local governments are passing ordinances refusing to cooperate with the FBI out of fear of similarly fictitious threats to our freedoms.
We're also hearing the familiar Vietnam-era mantra that we've got important priorities here at home - and we do. But they don't subtract from the demands of defeating our enemies. Sure, an additional $87 billion is a lot of money to spend on war and peace, but it's a pittance compared to what 9-11 cost us or what another such disaster would set us back.
Given our advantages and blessings, there is only one thing that can assure defeat against any foe: a lack of conviction that our enemies are worth fighting. There's nothing wrong and everything right with asking hard questions about how President Bush is fighting terrorism. But there's a grave problem with acting as if it is a complicated question about whether we should be fighting it at all.