Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe wrote a hard-headed and admirable column earlier this week, “Fighting to Win in Iraq.” Jacoby pointed out the ways that James Baker and George H. W. Bush had promoted American treachery and betrayal in key conflicts from 1989 to 1992, and he looked askance at Baker’s being employed to head the Iraq Study Group.
“If Bush the Elder is remembered for a rather heartless and cynical foreign policy,” Jacoby wrote, “then much of the credit must go to Baker. And what Baker did for the father, he is now poised to do for the son.”
Of the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations — which he sees as rationalizations for a bug-out — Jacoby said, “If (George W.) Bush prefers success to failure and would rather live up to, not abandon, the principles he has articulated in the war against radical Islam, he should politely accept the ISG report and then do the opposite of what it recommends.”
And the Globe‘s sole conservative voice nailed the American heartland sentiment, so different from the abstract gobbledygook endlessly promulgated and debated in the mainstream press:
…I would wager that countless Americans are upset with Bush, not because he isn’t skedaddling from Iraq quickly enough, but because he seems to have no serious strategy for winning….It is losing that Americans have no patience for — not casualties or a protracted war. Let Bush make it clear that he is serious about victory, and that he will do whatever it takes to achieve it. The political support he needs will follow.
I WOULD WAGER FURTHER than that, my friend Jeff.. I would wager that Bush already could have that political support, and that he would have had it powerfully and continually all along were two things different.
First, Bush has to be able to appeal for that support and explain the need for it, Reagan-like, at every opportunity, formally and off the cuff. Second, he would need to be able to pursue U.S. victory without constantly being hamstrung by real domestic enemies — not opponents, enemies. Primary among those is the opinion-making elite of the United States, led by the New York Times.
James Q. Wilson wrote a wonderful lead in a column in an early November issue of City Journal, reprinted on Opinionjournal.com November 6: “The Press at War: Whatever Happened to Patriotic Reporters?” I share it with you in its entirety for its wonderfully bitter truth.
We are told by careful pollsters that half of the American people believe that American troops should be brought home from Iraq immediately. This news discourages supporters of our efforts there. Not me, though: I am relieved. Given press coverage of our efforts in Iraq, I am surprised that 90% of the public do not want us out right now.
And then he showed how the media destroyed the war effort, and why, and where that impulse came from.
With the Iraq Study Group, the media has now promoted itself to a position of actual policy-making. And if the ISG does not say what the panjandrums of the press think it ought to say, why, then the press will report what the ISG ought to have said, just as though it had said it. And chances are those headlines will become the policy actually implemented.
As Wilson concluded:
The mainstream media’s adversarial stance, both here and abroad, means that whenever a foreign enemy challenges us, he will know that his objective will be to win the battle not on some faraway bit of land but among the people who determine what we read and watch. We won the Second World War in Europe and Japan, but we lost in Vietnam and are in danger of losing in Iraq and Lebanon in the newspapers, magazines and television programs we enjoy.
LET IT BE STIPULATED that no insurgency can stand up to a determined superpower, if that superpower will not choke on the need to annihilate. Thus Michael Ledeen’s repeated urging, “Faster, please.” War is like that. You must pursue total victory with total effort. It’s dirty, ugly, awful — and sometimes necessary, as when someone else is trying to kill you.
Total effort includes informing and motivating the citizenry, at the very least. Now it may take the realization that war needs be fought at home, too. James Q. Wilson did not say it, but I will: There is a movement abroad to destroy the United States. The peace party — Wilson estimates about 20 percent of voters to be a “permanent peace party” — the global warming hysterics, the gay “marriage” movement, the ugly outsproutings everywhere of political correctness, multiculturalism, the free immigration movements, all the prominent pieties of the modern age, are all of a piece, all the enemy. They aim to destroy America. What’s more, they explicitly say so.
George W. Bush couldn’t handle that. He couldn’t stand up to it. He had his moment, he had the ball right after 9/11, and he dropped it. I have come to agree, agonizingly, with Mr. Bush’s liberal mockers in one regard. The man just can’t talk. We have needed a good talker, so, so badly.
So although I, too, support victory in the war on terrorists, not only in Iraq but wherever they are found or supported — the Bush doctrine, gone, gone — I must say “Yes, but” to my friend Jeff Jacoby. Because I fear we’ve lost this one, and maybe a great deal more. Absent another Reagan. Maybe absent a Lincoln. Maybe absent even a Pinochet.
Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.