In the past three weeks I have spoken on air with every member of the GOP leadership: Republican Leader Boehner, Republican Whip Blunt, Republican Deputy Whip Cantor and Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Caucus Tom Cole. And none would utter even the mildest criticism of their GOP colleagues who are in the process of deserting the war effort, “emboldening the enemy,” to use Congressman Cole’s words, and sending a message to American allies and yes our enemies that the desire to cut and run now has bipartisan support
Hugh is missing a point, one that many people miss. The House of Representatives is far more responsive to the voice of the people than is the Senate. If the leaders of the House are moving away from a position of support for the war, it is an indication, far better than any poll, that the American people are abandoning support for the war in Iraq.
There are many who decry the lack of staying power of the American people, suggesting that we are no longer the ‘World War II generation,’ but have become so besotted with our wealth and comfort that we do not have the stomach for a long war. That is not an invalid point. In fact, I have made the same point, more or less, from time to time.
However, we must also keep in mind the proscription attributed to Winston Churchill that “American always does the right thing, after trying everything first.” I have lived a fairly long life, and one thing I have learned is that the American People are right, more often than not. Those who ignore the will of the American people are ignoring the collective wisdom of a Democratic people, the distilled knowledge of 280 million free peoples of every imaginable ideology and process of thought. That is the strength of our Democracy, the reason why we are strong, and we ignore it at our peril. This is an important point, to me. You have to trust the people. One can ignore that will, for a period, if one thinks one is right, but it does not pay to ignore it for too long, because that will might have a point.
That point has been reached in Iraq. We, as Conservatives, can not ignore the fact that public patience with our efforts have reached an end. The polls show a devastating verdict on the effort. More people think we made a mistake in going into Iraq, oppose the current surge of troops into Iraq and disapprove the way we are fighting this war than support, by a large margin. There are few, if any positive points in the polling data. The American people are overwhelming in their position that we are not progressing in Iraq. Few think we are losing, but there is an obvious lack of faith in the administration’s ability to accomplish the mission it has outlined.
Let me say that I think the people are wrong. I have a lot of hope that the current strategy is going to work, and have said so many times. That is not the point, though. The people do not think so. How could they? I have spent 30 years studying military history, have a pretty good perception of what is happening, what needs to happen, and have used that experience to make an informed judgment. How many people in this country have that experience? Very few. People have to make judgments based on the information they have, and the people have not had the in-depth analysis of the situation they need to make that judgment. How could they? I have not seen that kind of analysis in any of the media, and I look for it. One can find it if they look, but it is not readily available.
That has been the greatest fault of the administration in this Iraq venture. Where is the vocal analysis of the war? The President should have been meeting with the American public every week, telling us what he is doing, telling us what is happening, admitting the defeats, crowing about the victories, boosting support for the war effort, engaging the American public, making the war part of our lives, and telling us how we can support the war. None of that has happened. Perhaps the President is not a good advocate for the war; he is not a good public speaker and, frankly, he is not that bright or charismatic…but there are people who could do just that. There are ways to do this. They have not been utilized. I have often been frustrated with having to defend the administration, when they do not do so themselves. I can explain what is going on in Iraq, demonstrating it in a very positive light, and I have done so, to the best of my ability but, to be honest, that is not my job. We have people who are being paid a lot of money in Washington. Someone there should be safeguarding the policy on which we are spending so much money. I do not see it happening.
So, we, as Conservatives, have to accept that the American public has been patient, but the patience has run out. To blame the people is foolish. They need to know that we have a chance of turning this around, and that case has simply not been made. Blame who you wish, the main stream media, the President, the Democrats, it does not matter. The people have lost faith. Not only that, but I suspect that they have also lost trust; the people do not trust the Democrats any more than they trust an administration, which has claimed time and time again that the war is almost done; in 2002, planners predicted we would need only 5000 troops in Iraq by 2007. In 2005, Vice President Cheney predicted that the insurgency was in its last throes. The people are tired of predictions. They want evidence. Rightly so.
I still believe that General Petraeus is on the right course, and we should see light at the end of the tunnel by Spring. Once General Petraeus and the Iraqi army secure Baghdad, the Iraqi government will have a level of legitimacy and confidence to go out and start taking on the burden of the war itself, which is what we have worked for since the elections, last year. I do not foresee obstacles to this, either from Congress or the enemy, before Spring, and figure we can start standing down after that.
But we must understand that this is all the time we have. If the Iraqi government and army does not stand up for itself by Spring, we can do nothing more. We must start withdrawing our troops, no matter what happens in Iraq. This is our last chance for victory. Failure, here, is final failure.