Iraq, Thanksgiving 2005
By Tony Blankley
Last mid-week, the Senate went off the rail, with
a big bipartisan vote (79-19) for an exit strategy to be largely
carried out next year. The operative phrase was calling for 2006
to be "a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty."
followed with Rep. John Murtha's emotional call for immediate
exit within six months of U.S. military forces from Iraq. This
exit fever was lowered a little last Friday when the House of
Representatives put an "immediate exit" motion to the
vote. It was inevitably defeated with only three assenting votes.
Virtually no responsible congressman was prepared to put his or
her name to a formal congressional vote calling for such a policy.
As a point
of reference, the most recent Gallup Poll found 19 percent of
the U.S. adult respondents in favor of immediate troop withdrawal
(more or less, the Murtha position), 35 percent favored withdrawal
over the next year (more or less the Senate position), 38 percent
in favor of keeping troops in Iraq until the job is done (the
Bush position), and 7 percent wanting more troops (the Sen. McCain,
pro-war conservative critique position).
percent (19 plus 35) of the public currently favors an exit strategy
over a success strategy, while 45 percent (38 plus 7) support
a success strategy over an exit strategy. This represents a substantial
reduction in public support for President Bush's war aims. This
current public attitude comes at a moment of generally declining
public support for President Bush based not only on the media's
bad coverage of the Iraq war, but also in the context of the president's
problems with Hurricane Katrina, the Wilson/Plame Libby story,
high gas prices, a negative public view of the economy, the deficit
and (for many) the Mexican border crisis.
of us who are convinced that the Iraq War must be fought until
a successful outcome is obtained, the next three to six months
are a critical period to rebuild public support. The task is substantial,
but not overwhelming. Forty-five percent of the public still support
success in Iraq. The challenge is to stop the decline in support,
and regain 5-10 percent of public support -- which is only part
of a larger group of current war doubters who only six months
ago shared our strong support for sticking until the job is done.
three challenges. First, the president's current unpopularity
is distorting support for the war downward (just as his prior
popularity distorted it upward).
the news from the front is so murky that virtually no one (including
members of Congress and the Washington media, as well as the public)
can have any fact-based confidence that they know whether things
are going well or poorly in Iraq. Those of us in Washington can
find Pentagon sources and "experts" to match our desired
results -- but objectivity is seemingly impossible to come by.
We can't follow in the news the trail of battles won or lost --
as we could during WWII following Gen. MacArthur's Pacific islands
advance or Ike's progress through France and the Low Countries
is little attention being paid to the consequences of failure.
To convince the public that further sacrifice is justified, the
public must have vividly in mind the price of failure and the
value of success. If there is little price for failure, then losing
even one more American life is not justified. If the price is
immense, then further sacrifice is fully justifiable. (God bless
the souls who would make such sacrifice -- it would be our beloved
sons and brothers). That critical piece of the equation is currently
largely missing from the public debate.
current low esteem in which most of the senior Bush Administration
officials are held by the doubting 54 percent of the electorate,
it is unlikely that they can win back many of the doubters merely
on their word and argument (or on the argument of its supporters
in the media).
I am generally doubtful of the utility of congressional hearings
these days -- with their high propensity to become partisan slugfests
-- we must take our chances and have substantial congressional
hearings on points two and three, above.
be preferable, but highly unlikely, that Congress would organize
and hold such hearings in December and early January. But given
congressional schedules, late January and February are probably
the earliest such hearings could be laid on.
could frame the opening of such historic hearings in his State
of the Union Address. Then let's have it out, with as much informed
testimony and as little vitriol as our political process and the
passions of the people will permit.
(and the elected politicians who both lead and follow it) is moving
toward an exit cliff, the rocks beneath on which we will shatter
our national interest and our national security. We will have
one last chance late this winter or early spring to make the case
for not jumping.
2005 Creators Syndicate