- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2005

It’s a busy time in the U.S. Senate, the “world’s greatest deliberative body.” Judging from the 2006 conference report, the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education — Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, Ranking Member Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat — has been deliberating especially hard:

“SEC. 221. (a) The Headquarters and Emergency Operations Center Building (Building 21) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hereby renamed as the Arlen Specter Headquarters and Emergency Operations Center. (b) The Global Communications Center Building (Building 19) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hereby renamed as the Thomas R. Harkin Global Communications Center.”

Good to see that even in today’s viciously partisan political atmosphere, Republicans and Democrats can still work together to carry out the people’s business. In the same spirit, I wonder if the Senate chamber itself should not be renamed the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi United States Senate.

With increasingly rare exceptions, just about everything that emerges from the chamber tends to support the Zarqawi view of Iraq — that this is a psychological war in which the Great Satan is an effete wimp who can be worn down and chased back to his La-Z-Boy Recliner in Florida.

Last week, the Republican majority, to their disgrace and with 13 honorable exceptions, passed an amendment calling on the administration to lay out its “plan” for “ending” the war and withdrawing U.S. troops. They effectively signed on to the Democrat framing of the debate — all that matters is the so-called “exit strategy.” The only difference between Bill Frist’s mushy Republicans and Harry Reid’s shameless Democrats is that the latter want a firm date for withdrawal, so Zarqawi’s insurgents can schedule an especially big car bomb to coincide with the formal handover of the Great Satan’s guts.

“Exit strategy” is a defeatist’s term. The only exit strategy that matters was summed up by George M. Cohan in the song the doughboys sang as they marched off to the Great War nine decades ago:

“And we won’t come back

Till it’s over

Over There.”

And that’s the timetable, too. If you want it fleshed out a bit, how about this? “The key issue is no longer WMD [weapons of mass destruction] or even the role of the U.N. The central issue is America’s credibility and will to prevail.” That was Goh Chok Tong speaking in Washington last year. Unfortunately, he’s not a U.S. senator but prime minister of Singapore, and thus ineligible to run, as he’s not a citizen of Blowhardistan.

What does the revolting Senate action tell enemies (Zarqawi) and “friends” (Jacques Chirac) about our will to prevail?

Any great power — never mind the pre-eminent power of the age — should be engaged with the world. That means, among other things, it has a presence in those parts of the globe critical to its interest. For two years, the Democrats have assiduously peddled the line that President Bush “lied” about Iraq. A slightly less contemptible class of critic has sneered that the administration never had any plans for postwar Iraq, hadn’t a clue what it was getting into, couldn’t tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shia and a Kurd if they were painted different colors and had neon signs flashing off the top of their heads. If there’s anything to this feeble second-guessing, it’s that the U.S. government simply didn’t know enough about Iraq — and, in a crude sense, they’re right. U.S. taxpayers would be justified, for example, in feeling they’re not getting their $44 billion worth from the intelligence community.

But the only way to know the country is to be there on the ground, one way or the other. I’m all for “Iraqification” — though those Democrats urgently demanding everything be done by the locals will be the first to shriek in horror once the Iraqis start serious score-settling with the foreign insurgents. But, even with full-scale Iraqification, America would be grossly irresponsible, perhaps clinically insane, not to maintain some sort of small residual military presence in the western desert.

Sorry, but that’s part of the deal of being the world’s hyperpower. To pretend otherwise is an exit strategy from reality. If you’re worried about the “cost,” stop garrisoning your wealthiest allies — Germany, Japan et al. — and thereby absolving them from stepping up to the traditional responsibilities of nationhood.

One expects nothing from the Democrats. Their leaders are men like Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia Democrat, who in 2002 voted for the war and denounced Saddam as an “imminent threat” and claimed Iraq could have nuclear weapons by 2007 if not earlier. Now he says Mr. Bush “lied” his way into war with a lot of scary mumbo-jumbo about WMD.

What does Jay Rockefeller believe, really? I know what Mr. Bush believes: He thought Saddam should go in 2002 and today he’s glad he’s gone. Mee too. I know what, say, Michael Moore believes: He wanted to leave Saddam in power in 2002, and today he thinks the “insurgents” are the Iraqi version of America’s Minutemen. But what do Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Reid and Sen. John Kerry believe deep down? That voting for the war seemed politically expedient in 2002 but that they’ve since done the math and figured pandering to the moveon.org crowd is where the big bucks are? If Mr. Bush is the new Adolf Hitler, these small hollow men are the equivalent of those grubby little Nazis whose whining defense was, “I was only obeying orders. I didn’t really mean all that strutting tough-guy stuff.”

And before they huff, “How dare you question my patriotism?,” well, yes, I am questioning your patriotism — because you’re failing to meet the challenge of the times. Thanks to you, Iraq is a quagmire — not in the Sunni Triangle, where U.S. armed forces are confident and effective, but on the home front, where soft-spined national legislators have turned the war into one almighty Linguini Triangle.

It’s easy to laugh at the empty shell of a Jay Rockefeller, bragging how he schmoozed Bashar Assad, dictator of a terrorist state, about Mr. Bush’s war intentions.

But look at the news from France and ask yourself what that’s really about? At heart, it’s the failure of Europe’s political class to grasp the profound and rapid changes already under way.

This Senate is making the same fatal error. I would advocate throwing the bums out if there were any alternative bums to throw in. But maybe the Thomas R. Harkin Centers for Disease Control could persuade the Senate to be the first deliberative body to donate itself to medical science.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Mark Steyn, 2005

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