PHILADELPHIA -- This week's Army-Navy gridiron classic was preceded by a lecture at the U.S. Naval Academy from the Commander in Chief on the topic of "Victory." The speech immediately sparked a bitter partisan debate. Some pundits claim that the venue for the president's remarks gave the Midshipmen an edge over the Cadets on the football field. Unfortunately, most of the criticism was anything but lighthearted -- had nothing to do with sports -- and exacerbated the belief of many that the leaders of the Democrat Party deem partisan political interests to be more important than the good of our nation.
Since the summer protests outside his ranch in Crawford Texas -- followed by plummeting polls -- visceral opponents and weak-kneed Republicans have been urging President Bush to variously "pull out now," "set a timetable for withdrawing American troops" or benignly "lay out a strategy" for "where we're going" in the war on terror. All of this culminated in votes taken last month in both the House and the Senate on whether we should "stay the course." On Nov. 30 allies and enemies alike got their answer: a well delivered 40-minute speech and a 35-page report entitled "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."
Both the speech and the accompanying document lay out a clear-cut definition of victory in a war that is now in its 32nd month. Importantly, both the president's speech and the National Security Council's report clearly articulate why victory in Iraq is of such vital interest, the consequences of failure and the goals and strategies of our enemies. Critics would do well to carefully read these sections before moving on to the eight "pillars" -- the objectives on which the whole plan is based. Sadly, the report will not get the visibility it deserves -- for it is unclassified and made publicly available to the media. If the administration had stamped it "Top Secret" and "leaked" it to the New York Times and CNN -- it would have been front-page news.
Appeasers, partisans and the faint of heart will be disappointed that the document omits any references to inadequate or erroneous pre-war intelligence, the terrible mistake of dismissing the Iraqi Army immediately after Saddam's defeat in April '04, or any specific set of conditions that would permit a complete withdrawal of American combat troops. Nor does it address thorny issues like what to do with several hundred Jihadists being detained at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, what constitutes "torture" while interrogating self-destructive homicidal terrorists or whether we should hold terror suspects at detention facilities in other countries. The strategy document isn't evasive on these topics -- it simply doesn't deal with them -- nor should it necessarily do so.
The document and the President's speech are aimed at reshaping the debate on the eve of the Dec. 15 Iraqi elections. The effect is to force those who want to use the war as a political crutch in our 2006 elections to reveal their true colors. Do they accept the Bush administration definition of victory? Do they believe the enemy is "a combination of 'rejectionists,' 'Saddamists,' and terrorists affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaeda?" Do they accept the consequences of failure? A Washington press corps worth its salt should put these questions to the politicians once they finally return from their two-week "Thanksgiving Recess."
Some have already tipped their hand. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., in a remarkable Wall Street Journal column the day before the president's "Victory" speech, wrote, "America cannot abandon the war between 27 million Iraqis and 10,000 terrorists." Unlike most of the president's critics, Sen. Lieberman has made four trips to Iraq in the last 17 months.
Unfortunately, others who know less are talking more -- and getting greater visibility. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., proclaimed, "The goal of our military should be to establish a legitimate functioning government, not to dictate it." But then the heavyweight champion of the oppressed added, "If we want the new Iraqi government to succeed, we need to give Iraq back to the Iraqi people. We need to let Iraq make its own political decisions, without American interference." What does that mean? Quick, Senator Ted -- do you support the president's strategy? If not -- how would you do it?
Terry McAullife, former Chairman of the Democrat National Committee doesn't even want to talk about the speech, the strategy or the document. He told FOX News that what really matters is that, "last month 79 U.S. Senators voted 'no confidence' in the Bush administration's Iraq policy." Here's an idea, MacAullife: Join me in Iraq for the elections -- and judge for yourself whether these brave young Americans have confidence in what they are doing to help bring democracy and stability to Iraq.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has no confidence either. The ink was still drying on the White House "Victory" report when she came forward to endorse "withdrawing American troops from Iraq." Though no reporters asked whether Pelosi had read the report or shares the administration's views on "The Consequences of Failure," she has at least gone on record as a "surrenderist."
As usual, it's more difficult to figure out where failed presidential candidate John Kerry, D-Mass., stands. "This debate is not about an artificial date for withdrawal … it's about an estimated timetable for success, which will permit the withdrawal of our troops." What?
The opposition "rebuttals" to the president's speech and "Victory" report imply that they were written without the benefit of listening to or reading either. Between now and the Dec. 15, terrorists in Iraq will do everything in their power to disrupt the balloting. The opposition here at home would do well to recall the paraphrase of a slogan from their last campaign: "It's the election -- stupid."