A time for courage, not politics, on Iraq

Posted: Sep 17, 2007 12:00 AM
A time for courage, not politics, on Iraq

Democratic politicians are either far more insightful than your average Republican, or, uniformly more political. I'd opt for the latter conclusion.

How to explain that there is not one Democratic leader that sees any merit in our struggle in Iraq? There is no such uniformity among Republicans, and, after all, the commander-in-chief, who is leading this effort, is from their own party.

We've got a Republican candidate for president, Ron Paul, who self identifies as the "anti-war candidate."

And we've got highly credible and outspoken Republican doubters who have no political calculations to make. I'm talking about guys like Chuck Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran, and 80 year old Virginia Sen. John Warner, both of whom have announced their retirements from the Senate and political life.

The complexities and ambiguities that are clearly inherent in our current involvement in Iraq are manifest in the spectrum of opinions among Republican leaders.

But Democrats, uniformly seem to see through the fog and grasp with clarity that our mission in Iraq is misguided and that we should leave.

The only voice of dissent has been Sen. Joe Lieberman. And, as a result, he now supports our efforts in Iraq as an Independent.

Majority Leader Harry Reid declared the war lost months ago, before the current surge began.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, who voted for the war (but now says she really thought she was voting for more diplomacy), now wants us out, but what she means by this is carefully nuanced and choreographed to adjust for each day's polling results or positions staked out by her opponents.

It's all now so clear for Clinton that she dismissed Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, before their testimony, that they could possibly have anything to say that would shed light on the situation. At the Univision debate in Miami, she said that "Nothing which General Petraeus or Ambassador Crocker or anyone else coming before the Congress will say next week will in any way undermine the proposal that there is no military solution in Iraq."

Of course, Clinton knows that the purpose of the surge is to enable the political solution.

Former Sen. John Edwards, who voted for the war, and then apologized for doing so, now calls the war on terror a "bumper sticker" and wants funding cut off for Iraq if there is no timetable for withdrawal.

And, of course, Sen. Barack Obama is the visionary among visionaries. He, as he never wastes an opportunity to remind us, was never hoodwinked into invading Iraq.

From his then powerful perch in the state legislature in Illinois, surely privy to all relevant intelligence information, Obama opposed the Iraq war from the beginning.

In an interview with Colin Powell in the latest issue of GQ Magazine, the Aspen Institute's Walter Isaacson asks the former secretary of state, regarding the assessment of the situation in Iraq before going in, "Do you feel responsible for giving the U.N. flawed intelligence?"

Powell's response: "I didn't know it was flawed. Everybody was using it."

Yet, Barack Obama, even while still just a state senator in Illinois, understood what even Colin Powell, as secretary of state, didn't understand.

Now Obama, to assure his positioning as more anti-war than Clinton, is calling for a complete pullout of our troops by the end of next year.

It's troubling that the Democrats have starkly transformed our struggle in Iraq into cold political calculation. But more troubling is their complete absence of vision or compulsion to voice one. What comes after the withdrawal they are demanding? What kind of world would we live in with emboldened terrorists?

Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University, a Shiite Arab, and one of our most respected academics on the Middle East, wrote at length this past week in the Wall Street Journal about the cracks of light shining into Iraq, and urged that we pay heed to Petraeus.

Who doubts that mistakes have been made?

But our unpopular president is right. I want my grandchildren to live in a world that is just and that is free. Our enemies have made clear that we will have to fight for this.

A retreat into left wing politics is not the answer. Standing and fighting is.

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