Suzanne Fields

The elderly woman in a pink snow jacket was clearly agitated. She had stopped nearly everyone in the checkout line at Borders Books in downtown Washington to ask whether anyone knew how to get to the offices of the American Enterprise Institute. "I want to go there to protest the war," she said. Someone in the line thought for a minute she was Cindy Sheehan. She wasn't, but she was using Mother Sheehan's lines.

"It's horrible, horrible," she cried. "Just horrible, sending more boys to Iraq." A think tank seems a curious place to protest anything, but since John McCain and Joe Lieberman were speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, it was a better place than most to join the rocking-chair generals to rail at the senators and President Bush. But even the Democrats in the House have been heckled by the granny brigade, shouting their mantra: "De-escalate, investigate, troops home now." They're against the urge to surge.

Democrats are an odd target of granny ire, since most of them are already on record against the president's dispatch of more troops to stabilize Iraq. The critics decry "surge" as a euphemism for "escalation," but "troops home now" is a euphemism for "cut and run." Now that they're in charge of Congress, and the money needed to fight a war, even many Democrats are wary of cutting and running.

Protesters by nature are compelled more by emotion than facts; it's difficult to get much analysis on a picket sign. The woman in pink seeking directions to a think tank might have learned something if she had gone to listen to what the senators had to say. The senators had just returned from Iraq, and it's possible they knew a little more about the fighting there, and what's at stake for the country, than she did.

"We do our national security a disservice if we isolate the war in Iraq from the context of the broader war on Islamic extremism," she would have heard Sen. Lieberman say. "The Arab world is dividing along new lines between moderates and extremists, dictators and democrats. How the Iraq war ends will determine the future of the moderates in the region."

Osama bin Laden took due note of Bill Clinton's reluctance to answer the Islamist terrorists who destroyed his East African embassies in 1998, and reckoned it as evidence of weakness. The strikes in Somalia, aimed at those same terrorists, are meant to send a signal that this time someone else is in charge.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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