BARCELONA, Spain -- This week in Kansas City, Mo., the commander in chief received something he's not getting a lot of lately: multiple standing ovations. The applause came from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) when he told their convention, "A free Iraq" is within reach and that "here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility -- but the terrorists see things differently." Leaving no doubt where he stands, President Bush added: "We will support our troops, we will support our commanders, and we will give them everything they need to succeed."
Here in Spain, the country that pulled its troops out of the Iraq coalition in 2004 after terrorists bombed Madrid's transit system, our president's words aren't getting any accolades.
What Europeans say about American presidents and their policies shouldn't really matter. None of them pays U.S. taxes or casts ballots in our elections. But that doesn't prevent our political and media elites from citing "Euro-opinions" to shore up their own positions. That's why we should expect to hear a lot of care and concern from Democrats about what the Europeans think of us in this presidential election campaign. What we're not hearing from Democrats is any consistency about what they would do about Iraq if they win the White House.
Perhaps the Euro-critics who are so willing to condemn America, President Bush and our troops in Iraq don't think the outcome in Mesopotamia matters to them. Or maybe, like much of our mainstream media, the Euros simply want "anybody but Bush" in the White House. But if that's the way they think, they ought to care about what the Democrats' position on the war really is. I know I can't figure it out.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the leading contender for the Democratic nomination, told the VFW conventioneers gathered in Kansas City that the surge is "working." But then she added: "We're just years too late in changing our tactics. We can't ever let that happen again. We can't be fighting the last war. We have to keep preparing to fight the new war." She concluded that the best way to honor U.S. forces is "by beginning to bring them home." She did not specify just where her "new war" might be or how bringing our troops home honors them.
Former Sen. John Edwards didn't even bother to show up for the VFW. His campaign simply released a statement reminding supporters that he wants "an immediate reduction of 40,000 to 50,000 troops to stop the surge and get all regional parties to begin to find a political solution." He also wants "all combat troops to be withdrawn within the next year." That, his campaign says, will "finally put Iraq on the path to stability." He doesn't say how.
And then there's Sen. Barack Obama, widely considered to be in second place in the Democratic horse race. Obama apparently has become a new believer in the efficacy of military force. He told the veterans, "If we put 30,000 additional troops into Baghdad, it will quell some of the violence short term." But then he added, "All of our top military commanders recognize that there is no military solution in Iraq," and "one reason to stop fighting the wrong war is so that we can fight the right war against terrorism and extremism." Though Obama failed to specify exactly where this "right war" is to be fought, one can presume it may be in Pakistan, a place he offered to bomb during a debate last month.
Or perhaps the "right war" is in Afghanistan. Two weeks ago in a campaign appearance, the senator from Illinois suggested that we need more troops to back up the Karzai government in Kabul: "We've got to get the job done there, and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air raiding (sic) villages and killing civilians, which is (sic) causing enormous problems there."
Obama concluded his remarks to the veterans by observing, "That is why I have pushed for a careful and responsible redeployment of troops engaged in combat operations out of Iraq, joined with direct and sustained diplomacy in the region."
Unfortunately for those seeking it, clarity on the war isn't found in other Democrats either. In an interview this week with the Detroit Free Press, Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, conceded the troop surge was working, but then added that the democratically elected government of Iraq is "nonfunctional" and that "I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office." Levin has said repeatedly that he wants to begin withdrawing U.S. forces by the end of this year.
Those are the positions of leading Democrats on the war. As we say at FOX News Channel: "We report, you decide." I sure can't.