What the Petraeus Testimony Means

This columnist has concluded that it is truly justifiable to debate whether we Americans are fighting a war in Iraq that is necessary to preserve our way of life and sustain other democracy-loving nations around the world. Truly it is not unpatriotic to agonize over the present and future ramifications of our presence in Iraq. We can just measure the impact of this war through the lenses of lost lives. One must consider that many of our soldiers have been disabled for life; many will have psychological and emotional challenges; families are grieving and finding it difficult in many instances to find meaning in their loved ones’ ultimate sacrifice for country.

Recently I spoke with a Navy Seal who returned from Iraq with a bronze star and a purple heart. It was clear from our frank discussion that he and his fellow warriors have made many sacrifices for our nation. This country continues to call upon our soldiers to make even more sacrifices. This past week, General Petraeus has come to tell the congress — the elected representatives of the American people — the reason for all of that sacrifice. This country needs to know that all of our blood and treasure is being spent on a worthy endeavor. At the end of the day, Americans must know if we’ve taken a moral and just course of action. They also need to know why this country and the world are far safer and secure as a result of this moral and just course.

Much akin to the American way of life, American military ideals signal two general themes — democracy and triumph. General Petraeus has now testified before Senators Clinton, Obama and McCain about his plan to triumph over terrorism and create democracy for a previously tyrannized country. Two of our nation’s candidates (hint: the ones without military experience) still claim they will initiate a quick withdrawal, essentially forfeiting the war… although neither of them will claim the result. After all, the American people want to hear about victory. It is so sad that in presidential elections a candidate’s position on the war is borne out of political expediency and not a principled position of what is best for our country and many of the Iraq citizens, military brass, and soldiers that have paid the ultimate price for this conflict.

Not even Democrats can deny the state of Iraq is much better than before the surge ensued. Reports from Iraq serve to support that statement by showing a decrease in attacks, killings, and overall violence. Further, our attention and resources are focusing more and more on rebuilding and developing infrastructure and less on combating the enemy. Although these facts all points towards success, Democrats still want to call it a game, a farce, an illusion. Many Iraqis will tell you first hand that their infrastructure has been greatly enhanced and they have a remarkable appreciation of what they sense as a promising future for all Iraqis.

Frankly, the Democrats have had control of Congress for nearly four years now yet no significant “change of course” has been seriously proposed. They can’t seem to rally the support to end this war. Why? Because deep down they know that immediately or quickly withdrawing the troops isn’t going to win over terrorism. More importantly, their constituents know this too; and their constituents want to win. Whether it’s admitted or not this is one of the reasons Senator John McCain has become a viable candidate in this presidential election year. He is one of the few that has taken a principled position on this war and refuses to buy into the political rhetoric of withdrawing our troops. He feels that in the long run this will prove disastrous.

Unfortunately, a vast majority of these constituents have never experienced the glory of winning a war or the sacrifices that predate it. Since WWII, this country has not experienced any grand military victories that caused a pride to run through our veins. Rather, we have achieved small, tactical gains in controversial attempts. As such, many Americans don’t know the costs — financial or physical — that it takes to successfully triumph over a group of enemies.

The challenge for the General (along with the Administration) was and remains the ability to explain to American’s exactly how we are going to achieve victory. Americans are willing to sacrifice but they want to know that their sacrifice has a meaningful purpose.  Five years in some of our countrymen have loss patience with what seems to be a never ending war. We are willing to fight and sacrifice our lives but it’s necessary to know that our sacrifices are making the world a safer and more secure place.

No General, politician, or citizen wants to lose materials or soldiers to the destruction of battle, but unfortunately the price of freedom, the price of equality, the price of triumph is not free. There are sacrifices that must be made. As long as we are losing the minimal amount necessary to ensure safety and success, we can continue to win this war and ensure the American ideals we value — democracy and triumph.