The Iraqis, who know better than anyone about what's going on in their country, are more optimistic about winning the war for democracy than the Americans. Marines with their lives on the line are considerably more faithful to the cause than the politicians in Washington.
The polls show Americans turning against the war, with the media chorus eager to sing the siren call to the troops. President Bush, speaking to the Class of '05 at the U.S. Naval Academy, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Democrat who wrote an important op-ed in The Wall Street Journal reporting on his fourth visit to Iraq, delivered a one-two punch that ought to knock some sense into the heads of Americans who have "gone wobbly."
"While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism," the senator wrote. "Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam [Hussein], and a resounding 82 percent are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today."
Critics of the war might think these Iraqis are smoking something besides water in their pipes, but the Iraqis have suffered, and the critics haven't. The Iraqis can see what is not so visible from afar, the flowering of democracy from the seeds we planted in a garden of evil. The Iraqis didn't start the war, but they're in it, and they understand that someone will win it, and it had better be the small-d democrats.
We were spoiled by the facile symbolism of the toppling of Saddam Hussein, both of the statue and the man. The president describes mistakes he made at the beginning of the war but counsels patience with clarity. He asks Americans to visit whitehouse.gov, where a document called "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" is posted. It's worth the trip.
The war for Iraq is a war between the 27 million who want to be free and the 10,000 who, for reasons of power, ambition and benighted religion, don't. The opposition is made up of rejectionists, mainly Sunni Muslims who enjoyed a privileged life under Saddam, the Saddamists who held power under Saddam and terrorists who cut off heads in the name of Allah. "The third group is the smallest but the most lethal," says the president. The terrorists include savages from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and other countries.
It would be foolish to think that the terrorists would go away if we went away. "If we're not fighting and destroying this enemy in Iraq," says the president, "they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people."
He described how the terrorists would fill the vacuum left behind: "They would then use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks against America and overthrow moderate governments in the Middle East and try to establish a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain."
Leaving now would undermine what Sen. Lieberman witnessed as "the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority."
The senator correctly sizes up the men and women of both parties who are running for cover despite what the clear evidence tells everyone. He is sickened by the posturing, both of Democrats eager to prolong a pointless 3-year-old argument over how we got into this war, and the Republicans who aren't men enough to stand by what they have been saying now that another Election Day comes in sight.
The worst among us are those who bounce back and forth, seeking to exploit the sentiment of the day. John Kerry once demanded more troops for Iraq and now wants a quick pullout. Hillary Clinton says she willingly takes responsibility for her votes for war but she should never have been asked to vote for a war she now calls a mistake. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi voted against immediate withdrawal two weeks ago and now wants to cut and run. (Isn't asking a San Francisco Democrat for strategy on the war like asking David Duke for strategy on protecting the civil rights of blacks?)
Fortunately, the soldiers and Marines in Iraq are not girly men. A Marine general at Camp Fallujah puts it on the line: "My Marines are motivated by their devotion to each other and the cause, not by political debates." Marines go for the knockout.