- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

We are about to go to war with much of the world population against us, with the managing international structures dysfunctional and the enemy prepared to use chemical and biological weapons against our troops. It is a moment of some measurable danger to the country. While the right of dissent and partisan opposition is inherent under our Constitution, the exercising of that right against the president's policy as we enter war may make it harder for our country to fully succeed in the war and its immediate aftermath. There is a moral difference between the right of dissent (which is inviolate) and the exercise of it at a moment of high national danger. We would suggest that wisdom if not patriotism would guide American citizens to abate the public expression of their opposition and rally 'round the president as our troops enter the battlefield.
The polls are beginning to measure a substantial uptick in American public support for the president's policy as the commencement of the war approaches. This phenomenon has been seen throughout our history under such circumstances. There is even a famous old phrase that describes it: "May my country always be right, but my country, right or wrong." Oddly, at just this time, many of the elected leaders of the Democratic Party have decided to rachet up their opposition. Even Democratic leaders who voted to authorize the war such as current Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and Democratic presidential contender John Kerry are now rhetorically attacking the president for preparing to act on that authorization. There are conspicuous exceptions. Democratic House leadership members Steny Hoyer and Martin Frost have loudly and unambiguously voiced support for the president's plans for war. And, contrary to her husband, Senator Hillary Clinton has expressed public support. There are others. We commend them.
We vehemently believe that the president is taking the right action, but we recognize that reasonable minds could differ. Nonetheless, it would be unreasonable to believe that the president will be deflected from his course, which has been authorized by Congress. Thus, every patriotic dissenter to the war must ask himself or herself which condition is better for our country: that we go into war with the world seeing us united or divided. Those are the only choices. While we have some solid allies, many governments around the world are either opposed, undecided or calculating their interests. A quarter of a million of our sons and daughters are about to be exposed to the lethal dangers of war. And our country's vital interest in winning the war and managing its aftermath may well be affected by both the enemy's and the world's perception of our unity of purpose. We would suggest that it gives hope, both to our battlefield enemy and those other countries that wish us ill, to see our home front divided.
A television network anchor recently explained that once the war begins, "there will be a pro forma congressional resolution passed supporting our troops." We hope that is not the view of our Congress. Members should vote aye only if they are offering heartfelt, not pro forma, support. That means wanting to do everything they can to help our troops, not merely getting a useful vote on the record for the next election cycle. Helping our troops means helping them win as quickly and with as few casualties as possible. And that means helping, not undercutting, their commander-in-chief in his war leadership. There has been plenty of time over the last year for vigorous dissent. There will be plenty of time after the war for dissent and partisan shot-taking. But, as our precious youth go forth into battle, let us show the world a united America, determined to achieve victory.

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