Alexis de Tocqueville, that most astute analyst of American society, said “there are two things that will always be difficult for a democratic people to do: to start a war and to finish it”, and that such people also have “an excessive love of tranquility”. Probably true, and we have had ample proof of these maxims in our experiences since World War II. So we find ourselves in a difficult spot, with a war that spites the nature of democracies and a domestic political opposition that is so obsessed with restoring its power and with its hatred of the incumbent President that it is open to almost any method of undermining the success of the mission.
Take the issue of “a timetable for withdrawal” from Iraq. Any reasonable observer knows that to openly talk of such timetables in wartime, even tentative ones, is to send all the wrong messages to all the important constituents—our enemies, our allies, and most of all, our troops—and it is the height of irresponsibility to use this tool, which is an obviously demagogic ploy on the emotions of democratic people, as a weapon to gain political advantage. It is also threatening to the security of the American people, because it fails to acknowledge the open-ended nature of this conflict and the necessity to sustain fidelity to the long term mission of defeating Islamofacism. Example: If we really believe in the Bush Doctrine and the power of freedom to reshape the Arab Muslim world into a safer place, which are the keys to victory, there are additional considerations that dictate that we not only suspend any talk of withdrawal, but prepare the American people for the very real possibility of deployment on other fronts, namely Syria and Iran, in both of which it has become increasingly clear that regime change, by one method or another, is the only viable option.
Intuitively, I believe the American people know this. In a November poll by RT Strategies, 70% of them overall said that criticism of the war hurts troop morale and 55% of self-identified Democrats agreed with this. And in a Pew Research Center poll, the general public, by wide margins, was much more optimistic than other constituencies, including the news media, think tanks, and other opinion leaders, about the chances for establishing a successful democracy in Iraq. This disconnect points to the resiliency of President Bush’s core strength, but also reinforces his need to continue to go over the heads of the demagogues and their fellow travelers in the media to insure that this base of support is fully aware of the unfinished business of the mission.