War-winning don'ts and do's

Posted: Jun 27, 2006 12:01 AM
When the history of this era is written, it will be clearer than it is now what steps made a difference in the course of the present, global conflict – the War for the Free World. Even now, however, it seems safe to say that two initiatives qualify, one in the negative sense, the other in a positive one.

The first is the effort led principally by Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senators John Kerry and Carl Levin aimed at ending the U.S. involvement in Iraq. While the particulars of the several proposals debated on both sides of Capitol Hill over the past fortnight differ, what they have in common is unmistakable: They signaled to friends and foe alike, in Iraq and elsewhere, that the United States may prove once again to be an unreliable ally.

To be sure, the Democrats’ measures were all defeated, some more soundly than others. And the positions that prevailed in each case – with at least some Democratic support – can properly be described by Republicans as evidence that those who would have us “cut-and-run” remain a minority and are not calling the shots in Congress.

Unfortunately, the effect that matters – perhaps historically so – at the moment is not in Washington; it is in Iraq. There on Sunday, the new prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, unveiled a controversial 24-point “reconciliation” plan. It would involve, among other things, amnesty for those who are deemed not to have committed "crimes and clear terrorist actions," including attacks on fellow Iraqis and Coalition forces. The plan also calls for compensation to be paid to "those who were killed by Iraqi and American forces."

Early reports indicated that Mr. al-Maliki’s amnesty proposal would apply to those responsible for attacks on American forces as well. Naturally, this repugnant idea precipitated a bipartisan firestorm of criticism in Washington. Curiously, among the most vociferous of critics were those like Sen. Levin, who declared on Fox News Sunday: "For heaven's sake, we liberated that country. We got rid of a horrific dictator. We've paid a tremendous price. More than 2,500 Americans have given up their lives. The idea that they should even consider talking about amnesty for people who have killed people who liberated their country is unconscionable."

Sen. Levin’s high dudgeon is understandable. But it is truly unconscionable that he fails to acknowledge the contribution he and like-minded legislators have played in the consideration of such an idea by the new Iraqi government. After all, it is surely in part a response to the perception of impending abandonment by the United States.

Democrats have been insisting that the Iraqis sort out their differences at once, so we can leave without delay. Sorting out differences under such circumstances invites the new Iraqi government to negotiate ugly “reconciliation” deals with the terrorists. We should make clear the unacceptability to us of terms that reward or assure safe-havens to enemies of freedom in Iraq. But to do so, we must make absolutely clear that we are prepared to stay to help the friends of freedom defeat those foes we have in common.

The House of Representatives this week has an opportunity to make another, very positive contribution to the history of this conflict, of which the Iraqi front is but a part. It is scheduled to debate legislation that would begin greatly to diversify the energy resources used to power America’s transportation sector. Today, that sector is almost entirely dependent on products (gasoline and diesel) derived from oil.

Since much of that oil comes from places that are, at best, unstable and, at worst, downright hostile to us, our continued dependence on that single commodity – President Bush has famously called it an “additiction” – is not just foolish. It is strategically perilous to pay hundreds of billions of dollars each year to, among others, people who are trying to kill us.

The House is expected to embrace the principles included in a blueprint for “Fuel Choice” in the transportation sector advanced by the Set America Free Coalition, a group made up of former senior government officials, experts and policy organizations from across the political and ideological spectrum. The plan emphasizes practical steps applying existing technology to produce and make widely available, and useable, alternatives to traditional transportation fuels including: ethanol (in particular, from sources other than corn), methanol and electricity.

This blueprint will not, in and of itself, solve all of America’s energy problems. It will make a much-needed start, however, in the direction of energy security. It is impelled by the fact that we simply cannot afford to continue to ignore the threats to our safety and economy inherent in our present dependence on a commodity for which demand is sharply increasing (notably, in China, India and the Middle East) and whose supply in various places may be seriously constricted at any time by terrorists and/or hostile governments.

History usually takes many years to sort out what was important and what was not to the course of human events. The implications of some steps, however, are truly no- brainers. Those who are undermining our position, and that of our allies in Iraq, by insisting that we abandon it are likely to be judged harshly (not to say incredulously) by future generations. And those who help provide the American transportation sector with secure and abundant sources of fuel are sure to be seen as heroes in the War for the Free World.

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