The Library Speech

Posted: Jan 11, 2007 12:00 AM
The Library Speech

The president needed to connect with many audiences last night, and he did.

The message for the enemy in Baghdad -- both Saddamist and Shia radical -- was that the United States will respond to their violence with lethal force, and will fully back the Iraqi Army in the pacification of Baghdad.

Iran had to have heard the distinct threat concerning the networks aiding the terrorists in Iraq. Good. That was long overdue.

The al Qaeda operatives in Anbar got the message that far from having forced America from the field, thousands more marines and soldiers will be coming to the assistance of the local sheiks tired of the foreigners.

Iraq's often quarrelsome political elites got a clear message as well: The clock is ticking, and half-measures will not be tolerated. Baghdad will have three military commanders, and they will not be there to give cover to militias with friends in high places.

Supporters of the war at home heard what they have long hoped to hear: The rules of engagement are changing.

Critics of the war heard that their useful critiques will be welcome, and on a bipartisan basis.

The anti-war zealots heard a polite but firm rejection of their defeatism, and a rebuke of their utter fecklessness about events that would follow an American withdrawal.

And the American military heard, again, that the country needs even more of them. More months away from their families. More casualties. More sacrifice.

The president is correct that we are engaged in "the decisive ideological struggle of our time," and that the battle for Iraq is "noble and necessary." He was right to take responsibility for past mistakes, and also to refuse to let those mistakes paralyze the effort to secure Iraq and the region. And he owes the troops and the country absolute bluntness with Iran, even if that message is delivered out of the public eye.

Iranians are killing Americans. We cannot allow that to continue, any more than we can allow Iran to have nukes.

The president anticipated the propaganda war ahead. With the battle for Baghdad will come accusations of American brutality and probably staged atrocities to go along with reality of civilians killed or wounded in the battle. The media, the president warned, will be tempted to run scene after scene of carnage, which are easy to broadcast and difficult to explain. The enemy knows that the American revulsion at killing is the greatest vulnerability of the American effort. The president, the vice president, Secretary Gates, Admiral Fallon and General Petraeus will have to stay on the virtual battlefield if that propaganda effort is to be blunted.

CentCom has to conduct daily detailed briefings on what is happening, and the enemies' losses have to be detailed.

Finally, the president again appealed for bipartisan support for this crucial fight for the future. Senator Joe Lieberman is leading the way, and his re-election now appears even more important than we realized at the time. Democrats of good will and serious purpose need to join him in the new effort to keep the war from becoming a partisan football.

It was a good speech, and it sounds like a good strategy. The sacrifice it requires of the men and women in uniform will be high.

Perhaps as one response, you can consider supporting or  Each reaches out to support the soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines that have fought this war and will continue to fight it. That would be the best response to the recognition that they are going to carry a still heavier burden in the months ahead.