But Churchill and Roosevelt were determined to move forward, even (as in the North Africa invasion of November 1942) against the advice of their military leaders. And they both without hesitation chose to support the Soviets, even though they were well aware of the evil of Stalin's regime -- and understood that in destroying Hitler they were risking Soviet enslavement of Eastern Europe.
We forget now, but there was opposition to Roosevelt's decision to go after Hitler first (hadn't we been attacked by the Japanese, not the Germans?) and to support Stalin (an indubitably evil leader). And there were many times -- not just moments, but agonizingly long months -- when it seemed that victory was impossible. Our military strategy and tactics were far from perfect. And the Soviets did gobble up Eastern Europe and North Korea, as well. But the less-than-optimum choices Roosevelt and Churchill made, in retrospect and on balance, look preferable to any alternatives.
George W. Bush now faces an array of less-than-optimum choices on Iraq. On the campaign trail and on Sunday interview shows, many Democrats and a few Republicans for months blithely talked of withdrawal. But as they have faced the probable consequences, spelled out by among others the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, the downside risks seem ominous.
Nor does the ISG's recommendation that we negotiate with Iran and Syria look at all promising, given the recent behavior of Iran's Ahmadinejad. Debate continues on military tactics. Should we embed more trainers in Iraqi units? Should we surge some 35,000 or so troops in to pacify Baghdad? The success of military tactics, as Churchill and Roosevelt knew, is never certain. But the challenges before us are surely not as daunting as assaulting Hitler's Fortress Europa and reclaiming the Pacific from Japan.
Bush has stressed that he has followed the advice of his military leaders. But he needs to do more. He needs to engage now with his new secretary of defense and his military leaders, in the aggressive and detailed way that Churchill and Roosevelt did, probing and critiquing their proposals, eliciting from them plans that can reduce the sectarian violence in Baghdad and the Baathist and Al-Qaida attacks there and in Anbar province to tolerable levels. Even over Christmas, as Churchill and Roosevelt did.