Party politics have always made me uncomfortable – I’m an issues man – and when discussions of such have cropped up, I’ve usually gone to great lengths to focus instead on ideologies that cross party lines because most Americans seem to have more in common than not. But just a few weeks shy of midterm elections and with so much at stake in the war on terror, I’m making an exception.
The Democrat Party’s “message is murky,” writes commentator Howard Fineman in a recent article for MSNBC Interactive. “In the Senate, they decry the Mexican fence, then more than half of them vote for it. They label the Iraq war as a mistake, then vote $70 billion more for it. They object to Bush’s torture [sic] bill, yet flinch at a chance to block it in the Senate.”
Fineman’s comments mirror those of the late Democrat Congressman Morris “Mo” Udall, who said of his own team, when Democrats “form a firing squad, we form a circle.”
So why would anyone in their right mind believe that the Democrats could or would do any better in the prosecution of the war on terror than the Republicans? Not that the latter haven’t made mistakes. In fact, there have been some major miscalculations in the prosecution of the war, as there have been in every American conflict since the Colonial era. There also have been innumerable strategic successes and tactical victories on a variety of fronts since 9/11.
But I am convinced the Democrats (including moderates, the blame-Bush crowd, the cut-and-runners, and the extreme Left) would fail miserably in the leadership of this current fight as they have time-and-again since President Jimmy Carter’s micromanaged debacle at Desert One in 1980. There are several reasons why.
On October 10, The Washington Post published a group-written piece entitled, “Bush's ‘Axis of Evil’ Comes Back to Haunt United States,” which leads with:
“Nearly five years after President Bush introduced the concept of an ‘axis of evil’ comprising Iraq, Iran and North Korea, the administration has reached a crisis point with each nation: North Korea has claimed it conducted its first nuclear test, Iran refuses to halt its uranium-enrichment program, and Iraq appears to be tipping into a civil war 3 1/2 years after the U.S.-led invasion.”
The article goes on to describe events that would remind any military expert that most battle plans survive only to the point at which initial contact is made with the enemy. But the article does so in a way that becomes obvious to the expert that:
a) Those who wrote the piece probably do not understand the dynamics of military operations.
b) The writers might be counting on their readers not having any grasp of military operations.
c) Perhaps both
Beyond that – and to be fair – the article is technically a decent piece of reporting, liberally infused with interesting quotes. The biggest problem I have with it is that it wrongly lays all blame for North Korea, Iran, and Iraq at the feet of the current administration, with no reference of any of the extraordinary successes the U.S. has chalked-up in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, the Far East, Europe, here at home, on the high seas, in cyberspace, and anywhere else in the Global War on Terror.
So the Post’s writers – and legions of Democrats who have long misunderstood the dynamics of warfighting (particularly asymmetrical warfighting in the 21st century) – have concluded that because of President Bush’s so-called foreign-policy ‘failures,’ North Korea has achieved a nuclear-combat capability, or they are very close to it (an unfortunate event that has been moving toward its culmination for years during both Democrat and Republican administrations, yet no mention of how North Korea’s playing the Clinton administration like a cheating spouse factored into this).
The piece also suggests that it is Bush’s fault that Iran continues to defy the West (though completely skirting the issue of how the Iranians smacked the Carter administration around from 1979 to 1981; or how its nuclear development program was ratcheted up during the 1990’s), and that Iraq is “tipping into” civil war, though the blame-Bush crowd has been enthusiastically screaming that it has been tipping that way everyday for eight months. And actually, shouldn’t we be wondering why Iraq hasn’t completely ‘tipped’ in all that time? Not if you’re a member of the blame-Bush crowd, because that might suggest remarkable success on the ground in an incredibly complex and dangerous environment.
Then there are the regular commentaries from the cut-and-runners on the Hill:
“Our Iraq policy is a failure,” says Philippe Reines, spokesman for Sen. Hillary Clinton.
“[The election] shouldn’t be about national security” and “to capture him [Osama bin Laden] now I don’t think makes us any safer,” says Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.
Sen. Joe Biden said, “we can set a date for pulling out [of Iraq], which I fear will only encourage our enemies to wait us out, … a mistake.” But then he voted for a phased withdrawal from that country.
And, of course, there is Congressman John Murtha who has long called for an “immediate withdrawal” from Iraq.
Again, this has less to do with my own political bent, but more to do with – knowing what I know – how much more unnerved I would about the war than I already am if the Democrats were leading the charge.
Other points to consider:
The Democrats have for decades consistently voted against an effective missile defense shield for the continental United States. The Dems, more than anyone else, were responsible for gutting our human-intelligence (spies on the ground) capability over the years. And it was the Dems who permitted the sale of sensitive defense technologies to the Chinese in the 1990’s.
The Dems voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but now contend they supported the invasion based on lies and bogus intelligence, and that they should somehow not be faulted for that (What happened to Democrat Harry Truman’s “The buck stops here?”).
The Dems also say they support the troops. Yet they accuse the troops – prior to any charges, trials, or convictions – of “murdering” civilians “in cold blood” (ala John Murtha). They say the troops are “terrorizing” families in their homes (ala John Kerry). They say that the troops’ commander-in-chief is “encouraging and countenancing torture” (ala John Conyers). And who might the CiC be “encouraging” to commit those tortures? Who else, but the troops?The Dems see the war on terror as more of a law enforcement operation than a military operation: They’ve said so, and often.
They’ve vocally opposed the Patriot Act.
They’ve been eager to ensure that the entire world knew there might have been secret CIA-run prisons in Eastern Europe (Like such a revelation was really helpful in winning over allied nations who might have been assisting us in such a capacity).
They’ve wanted to broadcast globally that they believe the NSA’s domestic eavesdropping on Al Qaeda without first getting a judge’s permission is somehow infringing on our Constitutional rights (forget the fact that Al Qaeda is infringing on our right to exist).
They’ve wanted everyone to know about prisoner unhappiness at Guantanamo Bay, and they’ve wanted photographs of “isolated” abuses of enemy prisoners by a small band of poorly led Army Reservists at Abu Ghraib published on page-one of every major newspaper in the world.
Mike Thornton – a retired Navy SEAL officer and recipient of the Medal of Honor – may have said it best. During a recent conversation, I asked what made him uncomfortable about the Left’s involvement in the prosecution of the war on terror. “They [the terrorists] get medals for cutting our heads off,” he said. “Whereas we go to jail for putting underwear on theirs.”
The Dems call Iraq a “disaster,” a “misadventure,” and a “failure.” Yet U.S. forces have severely damaged Al Qaeda in Iraq, and gathered virtual storehouses of intelligence that connect other terror dots throughout the world. The Iraqi people have had three amazingly successful national elections, thanks to the U.S. They have a working constitution, an increasingly independent army and police force, a developing infrastructure and a growing economy. And there is a fully functioning, freely elected parliament in place, whose members are committed to ending sectarian violence in that country. And most of Iraq’s 18 provinces are relatively secure.
This does not mean there are not major problems in that country. There are. But that also doesn’t mean we should heap blame to make political points. Nor should we expend all of our energies whining about the things that have gone wrong, when we could be focusing and capitalizing on the many things that have gone right.
The Democrats, unfortunately, seem to draw strength from the negatives. For instance, they seem to constantly manipulate their constituents with casualty figures and casualty number milestones – to make political hay – without lending any real perspective to those numbers.
At least 2,750 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. As of this writing, some 2,192 Americans have been killed as a result of direct combat action in that country. And every death is a terrible loss. I know because as a former Marine I have lost friends and fellow Marines in both peace and in war.
But the losses – and there are always losses in any conflict – should be put into perspective before labeling a military operation a disaster based on losses.
Some of my friends on the Left have cavalierly referred to Iraq as a “meatgrinder,” with absolutely nothing relative on which to base such a contentious term.
So here are some figures for real perspective:
More than 1,000 U.S. Marines were killed in 76 hours on the Pacific island of Tarawa in 1943. Nineteen-thousand American soldiers lost their lives in six-weeks of fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, 1944-45. And in less than one month, nearly 7,000 Marines and sailors perished on Iwo Jima, 1945.
Does that mean the American public then was somehow immune or desensitized to catastrophic losses? Hardly. “You killed my son on Tarawa," a grief-stricken mother wrote Admiral Chester W. Nimitz after the battle. President Roosevelt reportedly gasped upon learning of the casualty figures.
The Battle of the Bulge could have easily been a disaster, as the Germans caught us with our pants down and nearly split our forces in half. And Iwo Jima was one of the most desperate slugfests in military history. But Americans were committed then to the task at hand. The battles were horrible, unfathomable meatgrinders for those who prefer that word. But failure was simply not an option then. Nor should it be today.
So the question for liberal Democrats that keeps coming home to me is: If they believe they can’t win elections, and they admit they are ineffective (ala Mo Udall) at winning elections – and all they can do is whine about how their opponents’ supposed trickery is to blame for their losing elections – what makes them think they can and will be effective at prosecuting much less winning a global war against international terrorists?
If they expect to win the votes of any truly critical thinkers in 2006 or 2008, the Democrats need to stop crying about Florida in 2000 and Bush’s carrier-landing in 2003. They need to curb their giddy enthusiasm over Bill Clinton’s recent railing against Chris Wallace, and the shameless shouting-down by brainwashed students of public lecturers with ideologies different than their own.
Instead, Democrats need to unite with those of all political stripes, and come up with substantive ideas of how we might successfully quash global terrorism. But that probably won’t happen, because, frankly, Democrats don’t know how to work and play well with others. And they certainly don’t know how to fight.