Where's the Winning Strategy on Terrorism?

A majority of Americans, 54 percent, say the United States "made a mistake" in going to war in Iraq, according to the latest CNN/Gallup poll. A similar number, 56 percent, say the war in Iraq is going either "very badly" or "moderately badly." In the latest survey from the American Research Group, only 36 percent of Americans approve of the way President Bush is handling his job. That’s down from 45 percent in March, the lowest approval rating of any president since World War II at that point in a second term, reported Gallup. All other presidents who served a second term had approval ratings well above 50 percent in the March following their re-election.

On Iraq, Nebraska’s Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel maintains that the United States is "locked into a bogged-down problem, not dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam. The longer we stay, the more problems we’re going to have."

In June, commenting on Vice President Dick Cheney’s remark that the insurgency in Iraq was in its "last throes," Hagel, the second-ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, told U.S. News & World Report: "Things aren’t getting better; they’re getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It’s like they’re making it up as they go along. The reality is that we’re losing in Iraq."

A week later on NBC’s "Meet the Press," Hagel, a Purple Heart Vietnam veteran, told Tim Russert: "I watched 58,000 Americans get chewed up over a process from 1961 to 1975 — that’s the casualty rate during that time — during a time when, in fact, we had a policy that was losing. And the members of Congress were interestingly silent and absent in asking tough questions."

Not unlike three decades ago, contends Hagel, we have a policy that’s producing defeat: "Stay the course is not a policy. I think by any standard — when you analyze two and a half years in Iraq where we have put in over a third of a trillion dollars, where we have lost over 1,900 Americans, over 14,000 wounded, electricity production down, oil production down — any measure, any standard you apply to this, we’re not winning."

And so, asks Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, where are the Democrats amid this GOP disarray, with the Bush administration stuck in an increasingly unpopular war, its plans to overhaul Social Security on the rocks and top White House mastermind Karl Rove on the way to a grand jury probe?

"Frankly, they are nowhere," asserts Ignatius, arguing that the Democrats are "failing utterly in the role of an opposition party," which is to provide, above all, alternatives on how the nation can combat terrorism and solve its long-term fiscal problems.

"Rather than lead a responsible examination of America’s strategy for Iraq," writes Ignatius, "they have handed off the debate to a distraught mother who is grieving for her lost son." As Cindy Sheehan characterized the death of her son to ABC News: "He was killed for lies and for a PNAC neocon agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel."

Explains David Frum, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute: "PNAC is the acronym for the Project for the New American Century — a three-person think tank in Washington that fills a large place in the imaginations of America’s left wing."

Still, just the insinuation that a cabal of neoconservative Jews might be running things (Bill Kristol, chairman of PNAC, is Jewish) has former Klan leader David Duke scurrying to cozy up to Ms. Sheehan.

"From the beginning, this war was orchestrated from top to bottom by Jewish neocons that saw the war as one for Israel’s strategic objectives," explains Duke. "Cindy Sheehan has a lot to be angry about. Her son was betrayed and his life lost by government officials who treasonably created and continue a war for Israel and the Jewish supremacist agenda rather than that of the United States."

The tragedy is that neither party has a coherent strategy for winning the war against Islamic extremism. On the one side, we have an administration that’s botching the job. On the other, a Democratic Party that Ignatius sees as motivated primarily by an intense hatred of George W. Bush. "Sorry, folks," he says, "but loathing is not a strategy."