News on the national security front last week provided reason for some cautious optimism. Although a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) notes that the Iraq war may have increased the terrorist threat in the short term, the document likewise points out that a victory in the war would deal a blow to terrorist recruitment in the long run. What’s more, an intercepted Al Qaeda communication revealed that the terrorists themselves believe that they are losing ground in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Taken together, the documents prove definitively that great deal is riding on the outcome of the war in Iraq – and that a defeat for Al Qaeda isn’t only desirable, it’s achievable. But just as there’s more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes, there’s also more than one way to lose a war.
Tragically, some Democrats seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Just last Wednesday, The Hill reported troubling remarks made by Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), slated to become the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee if the Democrats retake control of Congress. According to The Hill, Rangel alluded to the possibility of denying funding for the war in order to force an end to it – an objective that would, no doubt, be shared by the 73 Democratic members of the Out of Iraq caucus (which includes eight Democrats in line to chair committees and eight House appropriators). In a floor statement delivered in October of 2005, Senator Patrick Leahy likewise referred to the war’s costs and obliquely threatened to withhold support for future funding.
What’s most troubling about these statements is their historical parallel to America’s defeat in Vietnam. It’s worth pointing out that the United States was not losing the war when it withdrew the troops in 1973. It was only two years later, when the Democratic-controlled Congress eliminated funding for South Vietnam that South was overrun by the Communists. As a result, the United States betrayed an ally and projected an image of weakness and irresolution to the world – an image that only encouraged various Soviet provocations in the years immediately following.
That outcome was bad enough – but at least the Soviets were rational actors who had no active objective of bringing about the deaths either of American citizens or of their own. In contrast, the Islamofascists we confront today court death, both for themselves and for every American. Contrary to many Democrats’ stated beliefs, withdrawing from Iraq will not slow the growth of the terrorist threat – it will only invigorate and embolden the terrorists who have been recruited. What’s more, surrendering Iraq to the tender mercies of the terrorists who have flocked there will send a deadly message to other potential allies in the Middle East: That the United States cannot be trusted to keep its word to see the battle against Islamofascism through to its ultimate conclusion.
No external power on earth that can conquer the mighty U.S. military. The lesson of Vietnam is that the United States can be defeated only by an internal weakening of will – a decision by American leaders that the fight is no longer worth the cost. That’s the decision that many Democrats appear already to have made, but it’s an irrational one in an era when Americans have an enemy prepared to bring death and destruction to innocents across our homeland.
As the November elections draw nearer, the choice between the Democrats and Republicans becomes ever clearer. When it comes to the war in Iraq, the Democrats want us to withdraw from Iraq and cede victory to the terrorists. The Republicans understand that the danger increases temporarily while we fight, but that the war is winnable and victory will bring with it a real reduction in the threat to America.
Every Democratic candidate should be asked whether he or she would support the elimination or dramatic reallocation of funding for the Iraq war over the wishes of the President. That information is crucial in helping Americans determine whether they are supporting candidates who are committed to the victory that will make us safer, or to a policy of defeat and retreat that will galvanize our mortal enemies, dispirit our allies and endanger all of us.
Ronald Reagan once said, "I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing." The decision is ours.