The Right Coast

April 19, 2004
It is no time to go wobbily, George
By Mike Rappaport

The movement for some kind of democracy in Iraq may now be facing its darkest hour. The rebellion in Iraq has been reinforced by attacks by some Democrats and members of the press who oppose the war. The object of these attacks, both in Iraq and in the United States, is to weaken the will of George Bush and those who support his Iraqi policy. It is my fear that they are beginning to succeed.

David Brooks, a supporter of the war, writes in his Times column on Saturday: "I never thought it would be this bad." Consider that the Administration now appears to be embracing the UN's participation in the establishment of a new government in Iraq. Consider also that the Administration has been very restrained, one might say timid, in responding to the rebellion.

If enough bad news and political attacks can be generated for a long enough period of time, then support for the war may decline, even among those who most favored it. When confronting a series of such attacks, supporters are tempted to abandon their previous position, to cut their losses.

Military commanders sometimes burned bridges behind them to prevent their soliders from retreating. In politics, though, there are few such bridges and it is necessary to have the courage to continue the fight even if things seem temporarily to be working poorly. That is the situation that supporters of the Iraq War are now in.

Make no mistake, if the United States withdraws, or is seen to withdraw, the consequences for freedom in the Middle East and security for America and the rest of the civilized world would be dire. For a brief discussion of those consequences, see here. Also make no mistake, if the Republicans begin to abandon or distance themselves from the War in Iraq, they will lose the presidential election. George Bush's presidency is on trial during this election, and the War in Iraq is the core of that presidency. Some will no doubt be tempted to argue that Bush's popularity (such as it is) in fighting the war on terror can be separated from the Iraq War, but that is an illusion. Beside the fact that the Iraq War was justified as a key ingredient in the War on Terror, both in the sense of going after WMD, but also as a means of introducing some kind of freedom into the Middle East, an essential component of Bush’s perceived ability to fight the War on Terror is the belief that he will stand firm. If he cuts and runs, then there will be little left for people to support.