Wednesday, May 23, 2007

To Confront Our Enemies - Despite the fact that evidence mounts suggesting that al Qaeda was active in Iraq prior to September 11, 2001, idle speculation as to whether such was absolutely the case is as pointless as a new pencil. The inescapable circumstance is that they are active in Mesopotamia and elsewhere at this very hour. Recent news reports from sources as varied as the L.A. Times and the International Herald Tribune make this point in a resounding fashion. Democrat talking points regarding a mandate to leave Iraq notwithstanding, there is not a right-thinking soul who wants to leave al Qaeda intact - let alone victorious - on the battlefield. Sen. John McCain highlighted the risks of a unilateral withdrawal during a well-received speech at the Virginia Military Institute last month.

Democrats argue we should redirect American resources to the 'real' war on terror, of which Iraq is just a sideshow. But whether or not al Qaeda terrorists were a present danger in Iraq before the war, there is no disputing they are there now, and their leaders recognize Iraq as the main battleground in the war on terror. Today, al Qaeda terrorists are the ones preparing the car bombs, firing the Katyusha rockets, planting the IEDs. They maneuver in the midst of Iraq's sectarian conflict, sparking and fueling the horrendous violence, destroying efforts at political reconciliation, killing innocents on both sides in the hope of creating a conflagration that will cause Americans to lose heart and leave, so they can return to their primary mission - planning and executing attacks on the United States, and destabilizing America's allies.

It is impossible to separate sectarian violence from the war against al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is following an explicit strategy to foment civil war in Iraq. The only way to reduce and finally end sectarian violence is to provide greater security to the population than we have in the past, as we are doing now in Baghdad; to encourage Iraqis to abandon their reliance on local militias, and to destroy al Qaeda and other truly irreconcilable enemies of the United States and the Iraqi people. Our defeat in Iraq would constitute a defeat in the war against terror and extremism and would make the world a much more dangerous place. The enemies we face there harbor the same depraved indifference to human life as those who killed three thousand innocent Americans on a September morning in 2001.

Acknowledging all of this makes the naked defeatism of most mainstream Democrats all the less tenable. To make matters worse, the Democrats were hoping to stymie the conduct of the war by attaching unpalatable timelines and benchmarks to war-funding legislation; as McCain noted, "Democratic leaders smiled and cheered" as the final votes were tallied in support of their efforts. Of course the cheering abruptly stopped yesterday as the Democratic leadership accepted the fact that such measures would not pass muster with the President (and were increasingly less agreeable to the American public.) We can surely hope that the Left is divining the correct message from the electorate: namely, defeat is not in the best interest of Iraqi or American security, and unilateral withdrawal from Iraq is not a path to victory against Islamofascism.

But beyond observations about America's role in reducing violence in Iraq - or for that matter, in the Middle East more generally - America has a manifest and long-standing interest in preventing sectarian genocide. Sen. McCain acknowledged as much in commenting that many of us "
look back at America's failure to act to prevent genocide in Rwanda with shame." McCain's comments are of a piece with those made recently by former-Senator Bob Kerrey in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, in as much as Sen. Kerrey speaks to the need for Democrats who oppose the Iraq War to reconcile their current position with their previous support for military intervention in other places.

The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart.

Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn't you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.

As Kerrey makes plain later in the piece, it is the inconsistency of rank-and-file Democrats on the issue of military intervention that perpetuates the actuality that "we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power." In the end, as noted elsewhere, "the central question remains if we cannot muster the emotional stamina or the intestinal fortitude to confront those in Iraq who seek our deaths en masse, where - and under what circumstances - will we confront them?"

No comments: