President Bush's impending veto of the Democratic bill ordering American combat forces out of Iraq by September 2008, and his demand for the funding of our soldiers without such strings attached, will put the question squarely before the American people: Is this country going to make one final effort (the "surge") to achieve a reasonable success in Iraq, or is it going to put its tail between its legs and leave, abandoning that embattled country to its fate?
It is hard to think of another occasion on which Congress, having moved into control of the opposition party, has tried so openly to shoulder the commander in chief aside and force the abandonment of an ongoing military operation -- indeed, of an entire war. Of course, the Democrats believe that a majority of the American people favor a bug-out now, citing various polls and the narrow Democratic victory in the Congressional elections last November. Even if some of them harbor doubts about this, the left wing of the party is in firm control, and it has forced Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Harry Reid to make the left's demand for the abandonment of Iraq the official policy of the party.
In any event, it is difficult to imagine how the Democratic policy can possibly be justified as a rational strategy. If it prevailed, it would amount to an engraved invitation to Al Qaeda and its allies in the current insurgency to continue their current strategy of suicide bombings, seeking to kill as many Americans and Iraqis as possible, and wait patiently for September 2008, when the entire country would be handed over to them by the departing Americans.
Credit President Bush with wanting to avoid that catastrophe if possible. No question about it, the strategy that he and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their military advisers have followed for the past four years has been a failure. It was based on keeping the American military commitment to a minimum and pushing the fledgling Iraqi government to shoulder more and more of the burden of combat itself. This had the merit of being frugal with American lives (total fatalities in Iraq to date are less than 6 percent of those we sustained in Vietnam, and roughly half of those we suffered, on average, every month for 40 months during World War II), but it simply expected far too much of the Iraqi people after 30 years under the heel of Saddam Hussein.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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