Building A Beacon

Posted: Oct 05, 2006 3:33 PM
Building A Beacon

Democrats may soon face a conundrum. If they succeed in recapturing the House of Representatives, their left-wing base is certain to push for impeachment. And if Bob Woodward is correct, maybe that base would be right to do so.

In Woodward’s latest book, State of Denial, the legendary journalist claims President Bush has covered up bad news from Iraq. “There was a vast difference between what the White House and Pentagon knew about the situation in Iraq and what they were saying publicly,” Woodward writes.

Well, if (as Woodward claims) Bush really has staked his presidency on trying to conceal bad news from Iraq, he should certainly be impeached, because he’s failed completely to do so. Does Woodward even read the newspaper he’s supposedly Assistant Managing Editor of? Every day The Washington Post carries bad news from Iraq. If this is a cover-up, it’s even more incompetent than the Watergate cover-up that launched Woodward’s career.

No, the problem here is that Washington insiders such as Woodward are so used to politicians lying to them that they can’t imagine one would actually say what he believes. Back in May, Bush told a Chicago audience, “Years from now, people will look back on the formation of a unity government in Iraq as a decisive moment in the story of liberty, a moment when freedom gained a firm foothold in the Middle East and the forces of terror began their long retreat.”

Woodward insists that’s untrue, and he notes that just a couple of days later the intelligence division of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “forecast a more violent 2007.” But Bush isn’t talking about 2007. “Years from now,” he said. He’s taking the long view. And we obviously won’t know whether he’s right or wrong for years.

Think of it this way: For President Bush, the war in Iraq is no longer a political issue. Almost nothing he does at this point can boost his party in 2006, and he won’t be on the ballot in 2008. But Bush nevertheless believes it’s critical to succeed in Iraq, because he thinks a successful, democratic Iraq will change the balance of power in the Middle East in our favor.

In this, Bush actually mirrors another presidential visionary: Ronald Reagan.

In his book The Cold War: A New History, John Lewis Gaddis described the events that brought down the Soviet Union. A reader might expect Gaddis to describe Reagan as (to use Washington insider Clark Clifford’s phrase) an “amiable dunce.” After all, Gaddis is a Yale history professor, and there’s little love for conservatives in New Haven these days.

Instead, Gaddis paints Reagan as a man ahead of his time. While foreign policy “realists” including Vice President George H.W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell expected the USSR to be a near-permanent fixture, Reagan intended to bring down the Soviet Union, and he took steps to do so. The world is a better place today because Reagan dreamed of a world free from Soviet tyranny.

Our enemy today isn’t communism -- it’s radical Islam. But Bush has a plan to win, and setting up a successful government in Iraq is a big part of that plan. Woodward writes that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told the White House, “A radical Islamic or Taliban-style government in Iraq would be a model that could challenge the internal stability of the key countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.”

Kissinger gets it. And the opposite is true as well. A pluralistic government in the heart of the Islamic world could show Muslims they’re better off living under a “westernized” system than they’d be under Osama bin Laden’s dream of an Islamic caliphate.

As Mark Steyn writes in his new book America Alone, western ideas are under attack around the world. Islamic immigrants are moving into Europe in record numbers and they’re using Western “multiculturalism” to mute any criticism of their methods or discussion of their goals. But even though they’re living here, many refuse to integrate into our society. “Second- and third-generation European Muslims feel far more fiercely Islamic than their parents and grandparents,” Steyn writes.

As proof, remember that several of the 9/11 plotters spent years living in the West and enjoying our freedoms, but they attacked us anyway. Clearly, our openness won’t defeat radical Islamists.

But perhaps “moderate” Muslims can take back their faith, which again brings us back to Iraq. If it’s successful, Iraq will be a beacon for moderates. “Europe’s problems don’t nullify the Bush Doctrine so much as present a more urgent case for it,” Steyn writes. Exactly.

If Bush is correct about the big issues, in the year 2025 Yale historians may well be writing books about his successful vision. The war’s a risk, but one worth taking.