Political Hay

Desperate for Defeat

The Democrats' greatest fear is an America that's winning.

By 11.21.05

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The foreign policy of the Democratic Party verges on deliberate defeatism: afraid of American "dominance" in the world, many Democrats would prefer that America tie wars than win them. Because they would like to see America put in its place -- this isn't an overstatement; just listen to the Democrats' constant complaints about America's lone "superpower" status -- their contribution to the war effort is defined by deep ambivalence. They don't necessarily want their country to lose, but they are not so sure if they want it to win either. They often define this ambivalence as "patriotism": we're henpecking and sapping American military morale for the country's own good, they'll say, lest it become too "arrogant."

As they did during the Cold War, the Democrats see their role in the war on terrorism as that of harsh, inflexible monitors of their own country. "Patriotism" thus translates into endless temporizing, moral equivalence, and a campaign to place suicidal limitations on their country's military leadership. All of this is accompanied by a gross lack of proportion and perspective and a dilettantish indifference to the consequences of a lost war.

Democrats will tell the military to fight with one arm tied behind its back from the comfortable spot of standing behind it. From this safe vantage point, they can offer up such fine sentiments as: although a "democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand." (Al Gore, quoting someone else, used that line in a speech.) Democrats love this high-minded and windy talk, especially since someone else is doing the difficult work of preventing terrorists from cutting off their hands.

It is striking how black-and-white, how totally lacking in empathy, Democrats become when their own country's military soldiers, who are operating under very tricky circumstances, are under discussion. The Democrats' weakness for "situation ethics" suddenly disappears and they become know-it-alls on the moral particulars of military life. Certain acts are intrinsically wrong, they thunder, even as they argue in every other context that no such acts exist.

The Democrats warm to this discussion of human rights in direct proportion to the evil of the human being whose rights are under examination: a party that has never seen abortion as a human rights abuse is worried that terrorists are standing for too long and aren't sleeping in properly conditioned rooms.

CIA director Porter Goss recently made a sensible distinction between tough interrogation and torture, a distinction which the Democrats dismiss with easy indignation and false piety (this is a party that considers the death penalty for mass murderers to be "cruel and unusual punishment"; there is no reason to trust its definition of "torture" ), but a distinction which is essential to military victory.

"An enemy that's working in an amorphous network that doesn't have to worry about a bunch of regulations, chain of command, rule of law or anything else has got a huge advantage over a stultified, slow-moving, bureaucratic, by-the-book" army, Goss has said. "So we have to, within the law and within all the requirements of our professional ethics in this profession, develop agility. And that means putting a lot of judgment in the hands of individuals overseas."

When Democrats reject such distinctions and say the CIA interrogations are making America "like the terrorists," they simply reveal their ignorance of America's enemy. The Democrats' soft definition of torture would make Al Qaeda agents laugh.

The Democrats' tendency to hype with great melodrama the evil of their country while remaining clueless about the monstrosities of the enemy is connected to their agnostic foreign policy: Were they to see the enemy too clearly, they would have to support a more dominant role for America than they wish. Wanting to put America in its place on the international stage, with "parity" but not advantage over others, they have to portray threats to America very benignly. This explains how the Democrats could stumble into the absurd position of saying that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was terrorist-free and that he just wasn't the sort of person to associate with Muslim terrorists. This whitewash of pre-war Iraq has become essential to the Democrats' assertion that America could have won the war on terrorism while ignoring one of its loci -- an assertion no more persuasive than the Democrats' claim that Marxist expansionism in Central America had nothing to do with the Soviet threat.

Given the nonstop talk about what the Bush administration didn't find in Iraq, it is high time Bush officials remind people of what they did find there: a chaotically administered, out-of-control weapons program that was easily accessible to terrorists. As inspector David Kay reported, Iraqi scientists up until the beginning of the war were "actively working to produce a biological weapon using the poison ricin"; "We know that terrorists were passing through Iraq. And now we know that there was little control over Iraq's weapons capabilities....The country had the technology, the ability to produce, and there were terrorist groups passing through the country -- and no central control." Iraq under Saddam Hussein was arguably more dangerous than even Bush had assumed, Kay said: "I actually think what we learned during the inspection made Iraq a more dangerous place, potentially, than, in fact, we thought it was before the war."

The Democrats, ignoring this, and working themselves into a fever over Iraq's perilous condition even as they simultaneously argue no such dangerous condition existed under Saddam Hussein, are rooting at best for an American tie in this front of the war on terrorism. But a tie against terrorists is a defeat, a defeat which only a twisted Democratic foreign policy that fears too much American success could pass off as a victory.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.