The disappearing "US"

Michael Barone
Posted: Oct 02, 2006 12:01 AM
The disappearing "US"

One of the salutary results of the Clinton administration, I thought, was that it got liberals and Democrats in the habit of using the first person plural. U.S. military forces in Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere were "our troops." NATO and Japan and Australia and all the rest were "our allies."

The second person plural used to come naturally to all Americans. G.I.s in World War II were "our boys" (the second word now politically incorrect and also inaccurate), whether you were a Republican or a Democrat, from the North or the South, black or white. But the Vietnam War got liberals out of that habit. U.S. troops were "the military." They were sent into Lebanon and Grenada not by "the president," but by "the Reagan administration." (Did anyone say that troops were ordered to Normandy or Iwo Jima by "the Roosevelt administration"?) The Gulf War in 1991 was regarded by most Democrats and liberals as "their war."

The success of the Gulf War and the election of a Democratic president the next year got Democrats back into the habit of thinking of the government and the military as "ours." They reveled, especially during the Clinton impeachment proceedings, in portraying themselves as the champions of "our troops." They howled in anger, I think justifiably, when House Minority Leader Dick Armey, looking over to the Democratic side of the aisle, referred to Bill Clinton as "your president."

Today, Democrats are pretty much back to the third person plural. Yes, they still talk of "our troops" from time to time, but usually only to call for them to be "redeployed" from a mission that has been more successful than not, but has not been completed. They seldom mention any soldier's heroism unless they can persuade him to run for office on the Democratic ticket. They talk, instead, about George Bush's war, even though most Democratic senators and nearly half of House Democrats voted to authorize it and -- remember? -- said that they believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

And most Democrats are willing, even eager to take unprecedented stands that will retard the fight against terrorism. More than four-fifths of House Democrats voted against the military tribunals bill this week, though military tribunals have always been used to try unlawful combatants, and the bill gave those charged more protections than in the past.

Many have taken the astonishing position that National Security Agency surveillance of suspected terrorists abroad, undeniably legal, must cease when the subject calls someone in the United States until a court warrant can be obtained. Their proposals for immediate or rapid "redeployment" from Iraq are championed with claims that our cause is already lost or with reckless disregard as to whether it will be if their course is taken.

The likely consequences of that stand are laid out in the full National Intelligence Estimate's "Key Judgments" revealed last week -- not just the snippets leaked to The New York Times by liberals in the intelligence community.

Here's one key judgment: "Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight." Here's another: "Perceived jihadi success there (in Iraq) would inspire more fighters to continue the fight elsewhere."

That shouldn't be surprising. If you lose, or are perceived to lose, a war you will likely have more enemies. If you win, you tend to have fewer. Democrats are arguing, based on their cherry-picked section of the NIE, that going into Iraq created more enemies. But the "redeployment" so many of them favor would likely result in our having even more.

Back in 2003 and 2004, supporters of Howard Dean's presidential campaign talked about "taking back our country." The implication was that America is not "ours" so long as George W. Bush is president. Nor is the struggle in Iraq "ours" for many Democrats. It's "their" war, the Bush administration's war. And they seek not the road to victory, but the acknowledgement of failure.

Their pit bull attacks on Bush, their constant references to the Abu Ghraib abuses as if they were typical, their opposition to letting the NSA listen to conversations from al-Qaida suspects to persons in the United States and to letting interrogators of unlawful combatants use techniques that have helped us foil those plotting violence against us -- these amount to a strategy of rule or ruin. You must let us rule this country, or we won't regard it as "our" country anymore. So much for the first person plural.