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What Comes After the Retreat

By David Warren

I was rewriting history, while walking along some cold lakeshore the other day. My thought was: if Churchill had only come to power in 1937, Chamberlain would have been installed to replace him in 1940.

Had Churchill been in power, and refused to sign Munich, he would have been blamed for the outbreak of war.

I can just hear the prattle in an English pub, circa 1950. "He pushed Hitler to it! Had it not been for Churchill, Hitler would have been satisfied with the Sudetenland, and England would never have had to surrender. Everything was Churchill's fault!"

Today, everything is Bush's fault.

The Iraq Study Group report, fully released in Washington this week, was ostensibly to the purpose of advancing bipartisan agreement on what to do in Iraq. As the commission's co-chairmen, Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton, wrote near the beginning: "U.S. foreign policy is doomed to failure if it is not supported by a broad, sustained consensus."

Good luck finding it. Mr Baker, in particular -- elected by no one -- instructs the U.S. President to follow not some, but all of the report's 79 recommendations, some of them as fatuous as starting unconditional negotiations with Syria and Iran. This is not a "fruit salad", Mr Baker insists. It is a grand strategy. To my mind, the sort of grand strategy the British Foreign Office came up with in the late 1930s: keep negotiating, keep retreating.

We could see the result of the call for consensus in the gleeful receipt of the report by the Washington media, and other Democrat partisans. For several days, as the Wall Street Journal put it, "reporters ransacked their thesauruses for words to unload pent-up antipathy toward the Bush White House: failed, repudiated, dire, abject failure, deeply pessimistic, disdain, replete with damning details, a rebuke, a remarkable condemnation."

I foolishly ordered a goat curry in a neighbourhood West Indian establishment, Wednesday night. The food was great, but I was exposed to CNN for nearly half an hour: Paula Zahn and company "discussing" Baker-Hamilton, with a dig at Bush every 12th second. Again I'm amazed that, despite the 24/7 broadcast of such garbage, a significant proportion of Americans remain sane.

I am often amazed by feats of human endurance and stamina. The ability of my children to withstand the public school system, for instance. A certain lady's ability to survive Ontario health care. A White House spokesman's ability to spot ways to finesse Baker-Hamilton to Mr Bush's advantage.

It is like this. The U.S., with precious little help from allies, who even in the case of Canada refuse to contribute anything like their fair share to the alliance's military costs, for even the most conventional defensive preparedness on the home front, is fighting our common enemy in Iraq. We could be fighting them elsewhere, but that's where our enemy's efforts are concentrated at the moment -- as opposed to, say, the streets of Europe, or exposed infrastructure in North America. It is an enemy remorselessly committed to our annihilation, held up by proxy wars in the Middle East. We must therefore be committed to eliminating them, now and there, instead of here and later. This will not be done by negotiation and retreat.

And such media as CNN (perhaps unfairly singled out), persist in airing a worldview tantamount to blaming the police for the existence of crime. For the consistent argument of the talking heads amounts to, "We may need more troops on the ground in the short term, but the long-term answer is to get out." Translation: "We may need more cops in the short term, to deal with the mess they've already stirred up, but the long-term solution can only be to let the criminals get on with it."

To the criminal mind, even working on low wattage, the response to that has got to be "wait them out". To the mind I call "gliberal" -- to distinguish it from the honourable and responsible tradition of liberal thought -- the very concept of a mortal enemy is beyond processing. Even those who recall what happened on Sept. 11th, 2001, have persuaded themselves that we are only a target because, after that fact, the U.S. went into Afghanistan and Iraq. The unspoken assumption is, withdraw from there, and our problems are over.

It is true that our problems there will be over, if we withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq. Well, perhaps the advantage of doing so would be, to show the Western electorate what comes next.

© Ottawa Citizen

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