- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

The following lyrics should be sung to the tune of “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

How many times can this nation draw down,

When faced with a difficult war?

Haven’t we seen what retreat has produced,

Whenever we’ve tried it before?

With polls showing a decline in public support for the effort to establish stability and self-determination in Iraq, aging hippies from the ‘60s and their anti-all-war progeny have surfaced and picket and sing protest songs at President Bush’s ranch and at venues where he speaks.

What do those favoring a pullout of our troops from Iraq think would happen if the president followed their advice? Do they seriously believe the U.S. would be safer and no longer a target of fanatical religious extremists, who believe they have a mandate from heaven to forcibly wipe out all things Western, secular, Jewish and Christian? If they believe peace would then be given a chance, they are naive at best, and idiots at worst.

Since the American Revolution, there have been those among us who, faced with tyranny, preferred accommodation to confrontation. There were many at our Founding who wished to remain under British rule and accept whatever benefits they believed came from such a relationship. They chose not to fight in the Revolution, but were happy to accept the results of independence produced by those who did.

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln received advice to give in to the Southern rebellion. Had he done so, the Union would have divided and history changed forever.

In the last century, both world wars had opponents who preferred either to remain involved or to “settle” with tyrants seeking to subjugate Europe and America to totalitarian rule.

Recent history — from Vietnam, to Lebanon, to Mogadishu — has shown quitting before the job is done means more, not less, trouble for the United States and for those it promised to help. Those retreats emboldened the likes of Osama bin Laden, who has said America does not have the stomach for protracted warfare. Why shouldn’t he believe that when he has seen the U.S. choose to cut and run, not stand and fight?

This war and its peace is America’s to win or lose. If the U.S. withdraws before Iraq is ready to stand alone, the effort will have been wasted and we will invite more war.

Our enemies cannot be pacified by outreach programs. They won’t be mollified by allowing them to build mosques and schools among us that preach and teach sedition. Their religion does not reflect diversity and tolerance of other faiths — political or doctrinal — in any nation where the most radical strain dominates.

Pulling out of Iraq before the job is done is not an option. Victory is our only option. In his address before the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Utah Monday, President Bush correctly said: “They have a strategy, and part of that strategy is they’re trying to shake our will” and “a policy of retreat and isolation will not bring us safety. The only way to defend our citizens where we live is to go after the terrorists where they live.”

Why is this difficult for the president’s opponents to understand? There is no going back. We would not be “safer” (whatever that means) if the president had chosen not to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein. Do the 8 million people who, as the president said, “defied the car bombers and killers and voted in free elections” deserve to be abandoned at this crucial moment? Only if America’s word means nothing and the blood of our brave volunteer soldiers is without value.

It took the United States from 1776 to 1789 to compose and ratify a Constitution and form a new government. There were intense debates over the role of religion, federalism, states’ rights and many other issues. These were not unlike some of the subjects debated now among Iraqis.

The president has repeatedly stated his objective in Iraq and in the wider war against terrorists. What is his critics’ objective of and their forecast of what would follow a precipitous U.S. withdrawal? They have an obligation to tell us, unless they are just blowing in the wind.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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