- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2005

Call it the Week that Was. In four days, official Washington was wracked by congressional initiatives that threaten immeasurable harm to the war effort, precipitating bitter personal attacks across the aisle and across Capitol Hill.

Divisions in Congress and elsewhere have intensified greatly. Senior Bush administration officials have responded increasingly with hollow-sounding calls to “stay the course.”

The bloodletting began last Tuesday as 79 members of the Senate ill-advisedly embraced a resolution signaling America was ready to wash its hands of the effort to consolidate freedom in Iraq. Only 13 Republicans refused to go along with this indication of a deteriorating resolve (six Democrats voted “No” as well, but for different reasons; the resolution did not go far enough for their tastes toward cutting and running). The sense of creeping defeatism was palpable.

Matters considerably worsened Thursday. Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, one of few House Democrats who — as a decorated veteran and lifelong advocate of peace through strength — has credibility on national security, urged that withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq begin immediately. Suddenly, the defeatist sentiment went from creeping to galloping.

Mr. Murtha’s recommendation is especially regrettable since, even if rejectionn of it continues (as in the House Friday night by a in a 403-3 vote), the mere fact abandoning Iraq is actively considered now will have four very negative effects:

• First, this new evidence that America is an unreliable ally and one that fails to comprehend the true nature of this conflict can only demoralize our friends in Iraq andbeyond. Courageous people around the world who have responded to our calls to fight Islamofascist and other forms of terror will surely respond by hedging their bets. The War for the Free World may not be lost as a result. But it will be harder to win.

• Second, our enemies are emboldened by what they see as proof of our lack of resolve and staying power. In particular, the Islamofascists’ ambition to destroy us and impose a global Caliphate under a Taliban-style religious code known as Shari’a have already been powerfully encouraged by our previous losses of will in Vietnam, Beirut and Somalia. It is predictable that their efforts will now be redoubled.

• Third, a redoubling of our enemies’ efforts means more Americans and other freedom-loving people will die in Iraq and here. Confirming we value individual lives more than on securing our national interests and doing whatever it takes to prevail only rewards the murderers for their bloodletting, ensuring there will be much more of it.

Finally, even those who appear most directly to have prompted Mr. Murtha’s emotional appeal for withdrawal from Iraq — the wounded and disfigured veterans he often visits in military hospitals and their comrades still in the fight — will suffer from his initiative. After all, they must conclude their sacrifice has been in vain, or soon will be, as everything they have fought for is squandered by a precipitous U.S. disengagement.

Regrettably, these realities were largely obscured by the vitriolic debate that consumed Washington last week. Democrats and Republicans exchanged sharply worded charges of selective treatment of inconvenient facts (the former claiming the president and his subordinates “lied” us into war in Iraq by distorting intelligence; the latter by noting the Democrats’ refusal to recall their Bush-like prewar statements about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime.) The public seemingly is left with an artificial choice between cutting-and-running and muddling through.

Fortunately, last week was memorable for one other reason: The Congress was the scene of a third approach — a bipartisan initiative that might be called the “winning alternative”: Members of Congress led by conservative Republican Jack Kingston of Georgia, Democrat Eliot Engel of New York and a Republican moderate, New Jersey’s Jim Saxton, joined forces Wednesday with a similarly diverse group of senators led by Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, conservative Republican Sam Brownback of Kansas and a member of the centrist “Gang of 14,” Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, to make a real contribution to U.S. energy security,

Their idea is compelling: Reduce dramatically the use of oil in America’s transportation sector by utilizing existing technologies massively and rapidly to ramp up availability of alternative fuels (ethanol, methanol and electricity) and the vehicles that can use them. By so doing, we can make our economy and security less reliant on a commodity whose purchase requires us to transfer tens of billions of dollars every year to regimes that are unstable at best and violently hostile at worst. (For more on this initiative, see Step 3 of “War Footing: Ten Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World,” Naval Institute Press, 2005).

America’s only hope for prevailing in what is, in fact, the War for the Free World is to mobilize and bring to bear the full might of this country. To do so, we must urgently focus our political warfare and other instruments (including energy strategy) on defeating those who wish to destroy this country, rather than on each other.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy, a columnist for The Washington Times and lead author of “War Footing.”

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