- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

Let’s ask ourselves some questions about the contrived political mess we find ourselves in now. Are we at war? September 11 answers that question emphatically. Three thousand noncombatants were murdered without warning or provocation. That attack took a greater toll than the attack on Pearl Harbor, a military installation. Pearl Harbor ushered us officially into World War II, in which we knew our survival was at stake. All elements of policy — economic, social, political, and military — were bent to serve the cause of victory.

What is the nature of the war on terror? Once again, we look to September 11 for answers. The war is brutal, stealthy and final, and civilians are the main targets. There can be no retreat from this knife fight in the dark; we win or die. We must adopt the same steely resolve and willingness to place all our resources toward gaining victory that we did in World War II, and that includes not worrying about deficits.

Unfortunately, this war has a dimension that was only fleetingly seen during World War II. Today, most of the leaders of the party out of power and the mainstream media have decided to make war policy a matter of political gamesmanship. That is the clear explanation for the current tempest in a teapot regarding the disputed sentence in the State of the Union address.

The goal of President Bush’s foes is not to advise an administration they hate but to impugn its integrity and question the honesty of the president himself, in hope that the public will doubt the president and his advisers and turn to them. The president’s critics believe that, even if their charges weaken the country while it is at war, it would be a small price to pay for regaining power.

We’ve already seen the Bush administration’s response to September 11: to destroy root and branch the contagion that seeks to enslave humanity and to replace it with forms of government that enshrine man’s natural yearning for freedom grounded in justice. But we have yet to glimpse a policy from Mr. Bush’s pretenders other than shrill criticism based on self-interest.

Two questions will help us decide how to move forward and leave behind petty political considerations: If we support Mr. Bush, what is the probable outcome of the war on terror? If we lose confidence in him and turn to his opponents, what then?

Few of us can predict the future, but we can all help shape it by accepting and acting on the following: that winning the war on terror will be bloody; that we will have to find a balance between ruthlessness and moral integrity; that occasionally, in the words of Winston Churchill, we will have to protect the truth with a bodyguard of lies; and that our ultimate success rests in our willingness to close with the enemy, at times and places of our choosing when possible, and kill him.

Intrinsically, President Bush is encouraging his fellow Americans to ask themselves three questions: What am I living for? What will I fight for? And what am I willing to die for? He has faith we will answer these questions in ways that will ensure victory in this war; his critics have no such faith.

Mr. Bush’s opponents are clueless in all important aspects of this debate on how to conduct the war on terror; they are bent solely on reacquiring power. Lest we forget, their record in their recent holding of power is profoundly disturbing. They abused, reduced and cowed the military and intelligence community. Intelligence analysis and action was made to conform more to the standards of the courtroom than the battlefield, thus undercutting America’s power around the globe and the reputation of its intelligence services among their foreign counterparts.

The Clinton administration also eschewed the time-honored American approach to maintaining our own safety — peace through strength — and sought to reorder its relations with other countries by trying to accommodate them wherever possible. Some of that inaction and over-reliance on multilateralism led directly to both September 11 and our current problems with North Korea.

Following September 11, I have watched a politician who some had made the butt of jokes grow into a statesman who, with the assistance of Gen. Tommy Franks and others, in less than two years has denied the enemy two national bases of operations, with small loss of life when viewed in the totality of what has been accomplished.

If I have one fear, it is that the mainstream media is trying to reshape that truth to meet its own ends. They are focusing on the negative, the short-term pain, drudgery and casualties of the war on terror, without supplying an overall perspective which would help the public see events through the long-term eyes of history.

Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO commander, has become an apologist for critics of the war in Iraq, possibly in the hope of securing high political office. In sharp contrast to Gen. Franks, he seems to have forgotten that problems, left to fester, only get bigger, bloodier and costlier to deal with, and that in his line of work there is always little time to gain victory but plenty of time to taste defeat.

As I watched Prime Minister Tony Blair’s July 17 speech before Congress and his and Mr. Bush’s subsequent press conference, my own beliefs about the indispensability of American power in the world were vastly reinforced. Many Democrats in the chamber would have been embarrassed to deliver such a speech and, indeed, they and other Democrats have questioned the wisdom and value of American dominance in the world.

We need an opposition in wartime and peacetime to maintain balance in our decisionmaking process. But it should be a “loyal” opposition, not one that’s willing to sacrifice the nation’s welfare merely to secure its ascendancy. Of this, most Democratic leaders stand convicted by their own pronouncements.

Moreover, it is risible that many Democrats are now trying to paint Mr. Bush as a liar, despite evidence to the contrary, yet not so long ago they rallied around a president whom they knew had lied to judges, a grand jury, his own Cabinet and the American people. Their allies in academia even asserted that lying is not only acceptable but also consistent with human nature.

Messrs. Bush and Blair are not mere politicians but statesmen, and their opponents, individually and collectively, define an unbridgeable stature gap. Sir Isaac Newton once said he could see farther than others because he stood on the shoulders of giants. Messrs. Bush’s and Blair’s opponents would need firemen’s‘ ladders just to kiss their behinds.

William Goldcamp is a diplomatic historian and a former intelligence analyst.

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