January 3, 2008
By Tony Blankley
In Iraq, as military and security conditions continue to
improve, American war politics enters one of its stranger moments
in our history. Certainly it is historically odd for war reporting
to diminish almost to the point of public invisibility - just as
our troops are starting to gain the upper hand. But we are fighting
this war with the journalists we have, not the ones we want.
However, although the media maintained a virtual radio silence
once things started going our way, the public has come to recognize
the military success. Typical of recent polling is the Pew Poll
from Nov. 27, which shows that about half the country now thinks
the military effort is going very or fairly well (up from 30
percent). The public is also substantially more optimistic than
they were in recent years that we are reducing civilian casualties,
preventing civil war, defeating insurgents, preventing terrorists
bases and rebuilding infrastructure.
Despite such optimism, by 54 percent to 41 percent (virtually
unchanged from February's 53 percent to 42 percent) the public
wants our troops to come home rather than stay. Recent polls by
Harris, Zogby, The Washington Post/ABC and Associated Press all
show ambiguity in public attitudes. Even as the percentage who
think we are going to succeed or win approaches 50 percent or more,
a majority don't want us to stay and barely a third think the war
was worth the effort.
In politics it is usually the case that when your opponents stop
talking about an issue, you must be winning with the public on it.
Following that almost iron rule of political communication, in
light of the fact that the antiwar Democrats have virtually stopped
talking about the war, they must think it is no longer a winner for
But the polling data cited above would suggest that if the
Democrats don't see the war as a winning issue, neither can
President Bush and those of us who support the war effort feel we
have the public behind us. In other words, the public now tends to
think we are succeeding, but doesn't think it is worth the effort
and would like us to leave pretty soon, anyway.
There would seem to be no higher communications task for the
president and his supporters over the coming months than to make a
better case that the success that may well be within our grasp is
not only worth persisting over now - but that, even knowing what we
know now, the war was worth the effort from the beginning.
Assuming we succeed in establishing a stable government in Iraq
that is hostile to terrorists and respectful of the United States
and thelegitimate order of the world and while we aren't there yet,
we now have good grounds to expect such an end - I believe a strong
case can be made for the value of not only finishing the war now,
but even based on what we now know, for having decided to fight it
in the first place.
First, of course, the debit side must be noted, foremost the human
cost, to date: about 4,000 dead American troops, about 30,000
injured, perhaps half seriously, including more than 600 amputees
and about 3,000 diagnosed traumatic brain injuries. Many more
Iraqis have been killed. The financial cost of the war will run
above $1 trillion. We have also, at least temporarily, driven
thousands of Muslims into the radical ranks, created great enmity
in much of the Muslim world (and not a little in Europe
Against these costs and terrible human losses, on the credit side
we eliminated a vicious anti-American regime and aborted any future
plans they might have had for developing nuclear weapons. We
intimidated Libya to give up its surprisingly advanced nuclear
program. And, if the recent National Intelligence Estimate is to be
believed, Iran happened to give up its nuclear program just at the
moment that a couple hundred thousand American troops occupied
Baghdad - conveniently close to Iran.
These geopolitical facts are precisely evidence of the larger
strategic purpose of the war. As I argued in an August 2002 column
in which I predicted that this war would unleash vast hostility
against us, I endorsed Henry Kissinger's argument for the war that
we had to demonstrate that a terrorist challenge to us produces
catastrophic consequences for not only its perpetrators but its
even tacit supporters. "We had to break the will and pride of all
those in the Islamic world who would dare terrorize us and the
international system." Osama bin Laden said it best. His people
will follow the strong horse. If, after years of stumbling and
bumbling, the enduring strength and eventual wisdom of the American
people can enter into the belly of the Islamist world, overturn
tyrants, empower the Muslim people with peaceable and prosperous
ways and intimidate two Islamist nuclear aspirants to renounce
their pretensions, we will show ourselves to be the strong horse.
Thereby we will hasten the day when the terrorist pretensions will
fall on deaf Muslim ears and the threat of Islamist terrorism will
begin to recede.
We have it almost in our hands to gain the first strategic
psychological victory in the war on terror - and that will have
been worth the suffering and the loss.
Tony Blankley is executive vice president for global public
affairs at Edelman International. He is also a visiting senior
fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in the Washington Times
In Iraq, as military and security conditions continue to improve, American war politics enters one of its stranger moments in our history. Certainly it is historically odd for war reporting to diminish almost to the point of public invisibility — just as our troops are starting to gain the upper hand. But we are fighting this war with the journalists we have, not the ones we want.
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