be no more agonizing weakness for a nation than major internal
division during a time of war, because, unlike the conduct of
foreign nations or forces, a lack of internal unity is exclusively
our own collective fault.
for a country as powerful and robustly provisioned as America,
it is also the weakness that leads to all other weaknesses. If
we had national unity, we could quickly make up for any current
military manpower shortages (after Pearl Harbor, young American
men rushed to sign up, and the draft was overwhelmingly seen as
a needed part of our national defense). If we had national unity,
we would not have a prominent national leader and Marine veteran
such as Congressman John Murtha advising our young men and women
not to join the military.
If we had
national unity, government employees and the major media would
not think it their patriotic duty to leak or publish classified
war secrets. (Only traitors or the careless would be releasing
such information, as opposed to today's perhaps subjectively well-intentioned,
if objectively misguided, releasers of such information.)
If we had
national unity, Congress and the president could be motivated
and able to set spending priorities. But today, no interest feels
any obligation to give up a single dollar of the taxpayer's largesse.
Everybody is getting theirs -- and let the national deficit and
debt be dammed. If the war or national defense effort is short-changed
-- well, about half the country won't see it that way.
of all, America's loud, nasty and publicly displayed disunity
heartens our enemies around the world -- as well it should. Whether
the enemy is a terrorist operative in Fallujah, Frankfurt or Falls
Church, Va., he knows that defeating our will is the supreme strategic
goal. Once we are more concerned with defeating our domestic opponents
than our foreign enemies, the downside potential for America is
almost unlimited. The enemy now lives in justifiable hope -- as
we slip into increasingly justifiable despair.
is not an argument against dissent. It is an argument for voluntarily
persuading our fellow Americans of the nature of the danger and
the broad strategy for defeating it. Clearly, it is a job too
important to be left to the politicians.
wish that President Bush and the last two congresses could have
found the means to build that national wartime unity. There is
surely blame enough to go around.
opponents would blame him, his instinct for unilateral action
-- and preeminently his decision to open up the Iraqi front in
the war against radical Islamist terrorism.
supporters would blame Democratic partisanship and a liberal media
that is partisan, wrong-headed, addicted to collecting Republican
political scalps and oblivious, or worse, to the genuine foreign
dangers facing the country.
events partially may mend the problem. If the Iraqi front develops
favorably this year, the president may be able to rebuild public
support -- at least for that part of the war -- up to the 60 percent
plus levels that existed earlier. If events develop unfavorably
in Iraq, this country soon will be even more deeply riven between
what will be called deserters and last ditchers.
if Iraq goes well, fundamental differences in public perception
of the nature, magnitude and imminence of the threat from radical
Islamists are likely to viciously divide the country on the necessity
for measures such as NSA-type surveillance, the extension (or
even expansion) of the Patriot Act, the role of the military in
domestic security, the need for a much larger active military
force (and likely future conventional wars), the need to secure
both the Mexican and Canadian borders, and the spending of scarce
taxpayer dollars for substantially increased homeland security
As it is
the natural condition of people to be divided and querulous with
each other, the burden of persuasion falls on those of us who
believe there is a rational and persuasive case to be made for
seeing the magnitude of the radical Islamist threat -- and the
concomitantly needed increases in security, spending and sacrifice.
As the president
and other national politicians have failed to make that case,
it is time for convinced members of the public (including prominent
figures) to organize at a much higher level than exists a broad-based,
well-financed operation to try to move the better part of the
American public to a unity of purpose in the face of the present
danger. Any takers?