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Legion of the lost

- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2007

James Taranto, the very clever Wall Street Journal writer and editor of Opinion Journal.com, has a thesis regarding our political culture. He believes the liberals are victims of their own cultural hegemony. They say things that are quite inaccurate. Their inaccuracies are repeated by their intellectual lookalikes throughout the culture. They reread their inaccuracies and are roundly confirmed in their ignorance.

Conservatives think the liberal opposition is composed of liars or suave deceivers. Actually our liberals are sincere in their ignorant beliefs. Grant them at least this much.

If our liberals were not so ubiquitously dominant in our political culture, they might be confronted occasionally by disagreement. It would smarten them up. It might even cheer them up, for they have a very gloomy view of the world.

Today they are profoundly convinced, as one of their very brightest has put it, that the war in Iraq is "lost." The very bright fellow is that rumpled, lovable old curmudgeon from Nevada, Sen. Harry Reid.

He is not the only one. So far as I can tell almost all the Democratic presidential candidates think the war is lost. Congress abounds with solons calling for retreat. The other day I watched Michigan Rep. John Conyers intone this defeatist line to Wolf Blitzer. Mr. Blitzer seemed to agree this war is lost.

Rather heroically, Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, submitted an article in The Washington Post two weeks back arguing that victory was still attainable in Iraq and that history would view President Bush benignly. The hoots and the ha-has from the liberals are still to be heard.

Of course, Mr. Kristol had a point. The new strategy of Lt. Gen. David Petraeus seems to be working. Casualties among civilians in Iraq are perceptibly lower. Sheiks in once-hostile provinces such as Anbar and Diyala are joining forces with us against the savages of al Qaeda, the Iraqi military is gaining strength and wider areas of the country are assuming a semblance of law and order.

Now two critics of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq have returned from an eight-day visit there and published a piece in the New York Times that sounds very much like the writers have come to Mr. Kristol's point of view.

What will happen to our liberal friends if they read it? Perhaps Mr. Conyers will perceive it as satire. It is hard to imagine anything shaking his conviction that Iraq is a lost cause.

The critics writing in the Times are analysts from the liberal Brookings Institution, Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack. They chide the defeatist critics of the administration who they say "seem unaware of the significant changes taking place" in Iraq.

"As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily 'victory' but sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with." They conclude by saying, "there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008."

That would take us into an election year with the Democrats saying the war is lost. What will they say if we are, as these analysts seem to think, winning? My guess is they will continue to say we are losing.

Return to Mr. Taranto's insight. The political culture is almost totally befogged by liberal misconceptions and bugaboos. It is, as we say at the American Spectator, a Kultursmog. It pollutes the liberals' minds and renders them oblivious of any evidence contrary to their gloomy views.

Thus they will continue to say we are losing. They may pipe down somewhat, but they are not likely to admit to being wrong. How would they know? If their calls for retreat gain no support from the electorate, perhaps they will change the subject to another of their favorite misconceptions, to wit, the economy is going to hell. Actually the economy is chugging along in a healthy and protracted period of growth. For the last five years per capita gross domestic product has grown at 11 percent. We are living through a vast global economic boom, and the Democrats seem completely unaware of it.

In 2008, their presidential candidate will moan we have lost a war and are economically in a hell of a mess. The Republican will only have to point to a healthy economy and the success of Gen. Petraeus' splendid army to win. Then the Democrats will whine that the Republicans stole the election from them. That is my prediction, and I base it on the evidence.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His book "The Clinton Crack-Up: The Boy President's Life After the White House" has just been published by Thomas Nelson.