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Growing Pessimism Seems Justified

By Mark Davis

Pick any time in history, and you'll find daunting, discouraging problems. Today is surely no exception: A stagnant war, ineffective borders, soaring gas prices and other problems stew in a soup of political discourse so bitter that solutions seem unthinkable.

Through it all, I try to stay upbeat. I believe America has more honest people in government than crooks, more involved citizens than snoozers, more good people than bad. And I can always find more reasons than not to feel good about the country.

But on the two titanic issues of our day - the war in Iraq and immigration - it grows harder by the day to expect progress.

Not impossible - harder. I remain thankful that we have a president and fighting force willing to stick with the goal of a free, democratic Iraq. And on immigration, those of us who have properly outed the Bush/McCain/Kennedy bill as vastly insufficient have won a temporary victory.

But looking ahead, I see few ways for things to go well and plenty of pathways to failure.

September will bring Gen. David Petraeus' report on war progress. The White House once scolded critics to wait until then before passing judgment; now a nervous Bush team is already trying to dampen expectations and restrain any conclusions that the "surge" has been a failure.

One problem: Critics of the surge are correct. It is close to meaningless today and likely to remain that way. It kills me to utter a sentence that might as well come from the index cards of the surrender wing of the Democratic Party.

But while their criticism stems from the fact that they have never believed in the mission, mine is born of impatience. I have believed from the outset that the idea of planting seeds of democracy in the portion of the world that wants us dead is a masterstroke of visionary genius.

What leaves me cold is the notion that we have gone at it with years of half-measures. We have worried more about civilian casualties than winning. We have worried more about detainees' rights than winning. We have worried more about world opinion than winning.

Tell me when this president comes to the American people and says: "Wars are long and bloody and hard. If you think it's been tough to swallow so far, what happens next will be particularly hard to swallow."

Then we begin to fight a real war. Since so few know what that really means, I'll spell it out: It means killing enough of the enemy that they lose the will to fight. Period.

From the Revolutionary War through the World Wars to Gulf War I, that's how we've won every victory we have achieved. When we have not won - Korea, Vietnam, the current war - it has been because we have failed to grasp war's most basic tenet: You must vanquish the enemy wholly, decisively and without remorse.

Short of that, we can only hope for a huge burst of good fortune to galvanize the Iraqis into a mood to fight for their own freedom as we fought for ours more than two centuries ago.

As for immigration, the president's pet bill will probably win Senate approval now that a few billion dollars of border promises are likely to woo weak-willed senators who wish to claim the phony mantle of "reformer."

Money means nothing; plenty of dollars have been appropriated for a border wall that has not been built. What is needed is a huge injection of political testosterone leading to the willingness to deport lawbreakers, seal our borders to illegals and punish employers who hire them.

Short of that, the problem only gets worse. I do not see enough political will to counter the hand-wringing of those who characterize illegals as a downtrodden class seeking the American dream. Many are nothing of the kind. As long as sufficient percentages of politicians and the public are blind to this, real reform is impossible.

So pardon my pessimism. It's just that it seems so justified.

Mark Davis is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. His e-mail address is mdavis@wbap.com.

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