The political and policy planets are beginning to come into ominous alignment over Iraq and Washington. As electoral prospects for Republicans in 2008 continue to grow darker, the urge of GOP congressmen and senators to break with the president over the war will only grow stronger.
As I have been saying for months -- and as Sen. Trent Lott said publicly earlier this week -- September will be the month of reckoning. And that reckoning may wreck the world's chance to stave off a Middle East disaster that will probably follow a premature American exit from Iraq.
(Regretfully, Gen. Petraeus has said that he will know by then whether things are turning around -- although his own counter-insurgency writings recognize that successful counter-insurgency is measured in years, not months. September also follows the August congressional break, when congressmen will get an earful on Iraq from their voters. September is also the month when the new fiscal year's military budget gets voted on.)
No even middling student of history can be anything less than appalled at how often mankind lurches into its episodic catastrophes due to momentary lapses of common sense shared by vast majorities.
In 1914, from London to Paris to Berlin to Vienna to St. Petersburg and Moscow, most people briefly thought that World War I would be over and won by Christmas. In retrospect, the known close balance of lethality held by the two belligerent alliances (and the advantage the machine gun gave to the defense) should have led people to presume a long and bloody abattoir of a war.
In the 1930s, the idea that the manifest expansive urges of the Japanese Empire and Hitler's Germany would somehow be self-limiting should never have become the consensus expectation both in Europe and the United States.
But when the people abandon common sense for wishful thinking, they are not likely to be led back to safety by their leaders. (And it is the people who pay the price in blood. The leaders rarely die with their boots on.) Cynical or foolish politicians will reflexively give the people what they want. Even most sincere and thoughtful politicians will rarely find the strength to long resist the urge of the public. Vox Populi, Vox Dei -- (although sometimes politicians should listen to the advice given to Charlemagne by his advisor, Alcuin: "And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.")
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.