President Bush's decisions on Iraq have sparked broad consideration of the most important question facing America since the fall of the Berlin Wall: Shall we continue to fight the War on Terror?
The president's answer is a categorical yes. He believes correctly that failure in the Iraqi theater "is not an option," that failure to defeat jihadist terror in Iraq sooner or later will find the cutthroats on our shores - and better surely there than here.
Many in all the expected precincts disagree, from MoveOn.org to establishment repositories of opinion to the chardonnay-sipping armchair generals in the Democratic dovecote. Easy with blame for a president and his administration they never have liked, they say - let's see:
Our justifications for going into Iraq were everything from wrong to lies.
There was no end-game planning.
The al-Maliki government is incompetent and in cahoots.
The Iraqis neither desire democracy nor deserve it - and the Arab/Islamic world is so infertile that democracy cannot take root.
The Iraqis hate Americans.
We have no legitimate business in a civil war - least of all one we perpetrated and perpetuate by our very presence.
The only thing to do is pull chocks and bring the boys (and girls) home sooner than soon.
We may be in two Armageddons - one the conclusive annihilating conflict between Islam and the West so coveted by Osama and that ilk, the other the apocalyptic battle in this country over whether to sheath our weapons or fight.
Newly empowered with congressional control, the Democrats are outdoing themselves with hearings, recrimination and caterwauling of administration ineptitude and deceit. The fact is, there is plenty of failure to be shared all 'round, but debating it serves no useful purpose now. The object of this game, like so many others, is to win.
The president has proposed a plan. The Democrats propose nothing - or no coherent, broadly supported alternative. The Democrats' failure to rally around an alternative suggests that in legislative power their goal is the same as it has been during their out-of-power years since the 2000 election: wreck Bush and stop anything he tries to do - from taxes to judges to Social Security to, yes, Iraq.
The leftist attitude regarding Iraq seems to be Leave it broken. The moderate and conservative attitude seems to be You break it, you buy it or You break it, you own it. And with the Democrats in control, President Bush at last can use Congress as an anvil on which to hammer the opposition.
If for whatever reason Baghdad never was pacified, it best be pacified and sustained in that condition soon - lest sectarian/ethnic violence exhaust not only resources, but the will to press on. Either to put caps on U.S. manpower or to withhold funding for an accretion of U.S. forces would in fact undercut precisely the troops the left professes to support even as it opposes the war.
If the U.S. begins leaving Iraq before finishing the job in Baghdad to stabilize a fledgling government there, the entire region could well explode. Notes Defense Secretary Robert Gates, acknowledging mistakes: "That is the nature of war. But however we got to this moment, the stakes now are incalculable." Echoes Reuel Marc Gerecht, an adviser to the Iraq Study Group - regarding premature withdrawal in Iraq: "It is hard to imagine any event that could give the virulently anti-American Islamists (in the Middle East) more inspiration and hope."
If we broke it, we are obligated to fix it. If we are in Armageddon, why fight a mini-Armageddon in Congress and the public prints over whether to press on - complete with deja vu and protesters and Vietnam all over again?
Failure is not an option. There is - and can be - no substitute for victory. The war we are in is protracted and brutal. Let us do what we must to win however long it takes, and then - only then - come home.