In front of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, N.Y., are two busts on pedestals, one of Winston Churchill and the other of FDR. Carved into the marble beneath Roosevelt are these three words: THE WAR PRESIDENT.
We are not encouraged to think of Roosevelt these days as a "war president" — the moving FDR memorial in Washington makes little mention of his role as commander in chief of 12 million men, though it does quote his prewar statement, "I hate war," the sincerity of which I do not doubt for a minute.
I was reminded of this last Friday when, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, I was one of nine opinion journalists interviewing George W. Bush. He acknowledged that the conflict in Iraq is an unpopular war and said that he cannot make decisions about Iraq and have parents of the men and women who have volunteered to serve "think I’m making decisions based on the Gallup poll."
Bush, too, has visibly aged in his years in the White House, surely more than he would have if his duties were limited to clearing brush in Crawford, Texas.
The New York Times, arguing for a pullout, admits that the result may very well be genocide. That is seen as somehow preferable to continuing a conflict that has produced U.S. casualties of the magnitude of those suffered in the first 24 hours after U.S. forces landed in Normandy.
My country, this line of thought seems to go, is not a country that tries to accomplish things by force or violence; my country is a country that is willing to negotiate, that respects the feelings of those in other countries, that tolerates differences of opinions among the peoples of the world, that does not seek to dominate them or to impose our own morality. After all, who’s to say we’re better than anyone else?
Bush is surely correct in supposing that the Islamist terrorists we are fighting in Iraq want to do grievous damage to us and that their ability to do so will be increased if we leave Iraq in failure. A Middle East in shambles is scarcely in our interest. Bush and Gen. Petraeus may or may not have come up with a winning strategy and tactics. But the results in Anbar show that the twists and turns of war can be unexpectedly good as well as unexpectedly bad. Wouldn’t it be better to see if the surge produces success than to pull the plug now?