Ross Mackenzie

With this headline on its lead story Tuesday, echoed by The New York Times yesterday, The Washington Post told the troubling tale: "Reserve Tours Are Extended" - with this subhead: "Army Orders 1-Year Stay in Iraq, Nearby Nations."

Conventional wisdom about Iraq and more broadly the Middle East is conventionally wrong. The conventional lines of attack against the Bush administration over the past months have gone like this...

The WMDs never existed; the administration lied. (In England, the government-run BBC assault on Tony Blair has made the government-supported and way-left NPR here seem like a bunch of moderate pikers.) "Let the UN lead in the rebuilding of Iraq (but let's not blame the UN and supercilious European continentals if they demur). Administration postwar planning was as idiotic as its intelligence on WMDs. Even trying to establish democracy in Iraq (or among the Afghans or Palestinians) is naive. Now these jokers want $87 billion more - and for what? With U.S. military deaths in Iraq since May now surpassing the number killed during formal combat, dare anyone utter the dread Vietnam-era word "quagmire"?

Indeed, with the going so tough, let's get out of there - just as we should withdraw, given Challenger and now Columbia, from manned exploration of space."

The Bush administration has done much to maintain its resolve and hold the country on course. The president, the vice president, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and the national security adviser have noted repeatedly the war on terror will not soon be over - that it is, and long will remain, a difficult task necessary for our own survival and for international stability.

Roger that.

But perhaps the fundamental shortcoming in all this is that too few Americans in this war on terror are being asked - required - to do too much; the converse of that is too many are NOT being asked - required - to do anything at all. If this truly is an enduring war with an enemy unlike any ever seen, then who is really sacrificing beyond those in the military and domestic security? Check-in at airports is more invasive and more of a hassle. That's about it.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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