War of Words Obscures Larger Issues

Let’s be frank. The American people, including our men and women at arms, are being disserved by the current rhetoric over the war in Iraq. That rhetoric, has degenerated into personal attacks more characteristic of children involved in school yard spats than adults responsible for the policies of the United States.

The antagonists are branding each other as “liars” and “cowards”. Adjectives like “corrupt” and “shameless” are being thrown in for good measure. Such arguments generate more heat than light.

The ad hominem attacks reached their lowest point when Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-OH) accused Congressman John Murtha (D-PA), a Vietnam veteran and recipient of two purple hearts, the Bronze Star with Combat “V”, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, of being a coward willing to cut and run in Iraq. Mr. Murtha, in turn, mocked Vice President Cheney for having obtained five deferments during the Vietnam War.

Democrats and Republicans alike would do well to stop the personal invective and focus on the real issues that inhere in the Iraq conflict. The American people deserve frank and honest answers to questions like:

  • What are the current goals of the Iraq War?
  • How do we measure success? What objective criteria should we use as guideposts to gauge our progress?
  • How long do we forecast that American lives and materiel will be required for this conflict? What do we project the costs to be in dollars, human lives, and casualties?
  • What do the professional soldiers whose boots are on the ground say about what is required to win the war and stabilize the region?
  • Are our troops being furnished with the equipment and weaponry necessary to win decisively and with a minimum of casualties?
  • How likely is it that the seeds of democracy we are attempting to plant in Iraq will bear fruit in the future? How long before such fruit is borne? Does Iraq have the cultural foundations necessary to support democratic institutions? Can democracy flourish in a culture that fuses church and state, denies religious liberty, and that treats women like property?
  • How many generations will it take for democracy to become secure in Iraq? Will America be expected to prop up the nascent democracy until it matures?
  • What role does oil play in the current conflict? Is there any truth to the charge that some politicians are willing to exchange blood for oil, or are such charges just another form of character assassination?
  • Does our national security depend on securing the oil resources in Iraq under the control of a government friendly to the United States? Can we reduce our level of dependence on foreign oil by exploiting domestic reserves? What are the tradeoffs for doing so?

These important questions, and others like them, are being ignored while Republicans and Democrats alike hurl insults at one another. The end result of such personal and vitriolic rhetoric is to obfuscate, rather than illuminate, the important issues implicated in the war.

Cynics have suggested that as long as politicians keep the American public focused on the personalities involved in the political conflict, there will be no need to address the larger questions that emerge from the military conflict. Is that true? Could it be that the reason that the politicians do not want to address the larger questions is that they don’t have satisfactory answers for the American people?

The American people deserve straight answers to the tough questions—especially when American lives are on the line. Enough with the personal attacks and invective! Who cares about how much chutzpa arm chair warriors have? While our policy makers are dodging insults, our soldiers are dodging bullets. And while the politicians nurse their wounded egos, our soldiers are nursing their wounded bodies.

Let’s hope for the sake of our Republic that the partisans in the debate will soon stop the name calling and focus on the issues that are important to their countrymen and to the cause of freedom around the globe.