Waving the White Flag

Every time we are subjected to yet another excruciating debate of the Democratic presidential candidates, they tell us that they represent “change.” Especially, they say, when it comes to Iraq.

For them, “change” in Iraq means only one thing: setting a concrete date for the withdrawal of American troops. Most of them — including the frontrunners, Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards — have spent the past few years criticizing President Bush for not having a postwar plan. And yet, none of them has an adequate postwithdrawal plan. What happens if the United States draws down according to their timetable and catastrophic violence ensues? What if there is mass slaughter? What if fundamentalist elements take control? Are any of these Democrats prepared to allow that to happen in the heart of the Middle East, in one of the most oil-rich nations on earth?

Many of them concede that “some” U.S. troops will have to remain following any full-scale withdrawal; a skeleton force, they say, to do routine security work in the shadow of the Iraqis. But none of them are prepared to say that if there is a violent convulsion, they will re-introduce large numbers of American forces. Which, of course, they would have to do.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have requested a meeting this week with President Bush to talk about war (and other) spending. If they thought they could get away with it politically, they would pull the plug on Iraq funding. But they don’t want to look like they’re not “supporting the troops,” so they will grit their teeth and continue to fund them. They’ll just do everything else they can to undermine them and their mission. This week’s all-nighter in the Senate was yet another example of political burlesque at the expense of our national security.

Sadly, this political opportunism is no longer limited to the Democrats. There is a growing group of Republican Senators — Richard Lugar, George Voinovich, Pete Domenici, Olympia Snowe, Lamar Alexander, Ken Salazar, Gordon Smith, Chuck Hagel, Susan Collins, and Robert Bennett — who have joined the Democrats’ White Flag crowd. Some of them are up for re-election next year; others simply see political advantage in breaking with the president’s policy. None of them have an answer to the postwithdrawal question either.

What these Spineless Wonders fail to realize is that the American people aren’t the only ones watching this three-ring circus. The U.S. troops are listening too — in between to continuing to dodge IEDs, kill the terrorists, and help to stabilize Iraq. If these taxpayer-funded sponges really did “support the troops,” they would not be talking about pulling the rug out from under them WHILE THEY ARE STILL FIGHTING THE WAR — and before the troop reinforcement has had a change to kick in.

It has only been about a month since the surge has fully been operational. During that short time, the number of attacks — both on U.S. troops and sectarian — has dropped dramatically. Entire parts of the volatile Anbar province have been stabilized. Reports this week indicate that mid and low level al-Qaeda operatives have switched sides and are now assisting us identify and destroy the terrorist infrastructure. Evidence of top al-Qaeda desperation came last week in a tape of a grasping Ayman al-Zawahiri calling for recruits to the Iraqi jihad.

Iraq is nowhere near a flourishing, stable democracy, of course. Members of the Iraqi government had to be persuaded to work through August (rather than sun themselves on the Persian Gulf and French Riviera) to pass key anti-insurgent legislation. Iraq’s neighbors — Iran and Syria — continue to stoke the violence by sending in suicide bombers and pouring in explosives and other weapons. Car bombs and targeted killings continue. This is hardly paradise.

But the trends seem to be turning, if ever so slightly. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will Iraq. But the Democrats — and their disgraceful Republican compatriots — don’t even want to give the surge a chance to fully take hold. One can legitimately argue that the surge is happening very late in the game. But to argue that because it’s happening late it shouldn’t be fully supported is to give the enemy exactly what it predicted: a collapse of American will.

A lot of liberals love to pound President Bush by saying that he never asked us to sacrifice anything in this war. Actually, yes he did — and he still is. Since September 11, he has said over and over again that this war — the “long” war against Islamic terror, which includes Iraq — will be neither easy nor quick and will require sacrifices. The sacrifice is to hold the line — to support what the United States is trying to do, especially when the going gets tough. When the enemy wears us down, he asked us to have a steely resolve instead of make a weak-kneed run for the tall grass.

That’s what he’s asked of us. But based on the wobbliness of our Congressional leadership, perhaps he thought better of us than we are. There is still time to prove him right.