- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

Suddenly, the Democrats have found their voice on Iraq. It is the sound of defeatism.

Would-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and 10 of their colleagues in leadership positions have proclaimed that it is time to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. They want to start by the end of the year, without regard for the conditions on the ground. And they want all American troops out by some unspecified time, without regard for the consequences that would follow such a retreat.

Among those who have endorsed what might be called “the Contract for Defeat” is the putative front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. Mindful of the ascendant power within her party of anti-war activists evident in their vicious campaign to unseat former vice presidential contender and three-term Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, this one-time supporter of the liberation of Iraq is becoming increasingly strident in her criticism of the war and those responsible for it. Last week, she triangulated her way to the head of the parade of those hoping to make Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld a scapegoat for the Iraqis’ difficulties and demanding his resignation.

There is a certain irony here. Arguably, whatever mistakes Don Rumsfeld might have made — or were made by others on his watch — that are contributing to the present violence in Iraq pale by comparison with the effect Democratic defeatism is having on the so-called “insurgents.”

Think about it: Our Islamofascist enemies and their allies are convinced that they can defeat us politically. The means by which they seek to do that is by producing a steady stream of bloodletting and mayhem. The results are then incessantly beamed into American living rooms by mainstream media transparently hostile to President Bush and his Iraq campaign.

Then, Democratic critics (and, in fairness, a few Republican politicians — like Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska — who have figured out that it is more fun, or at least more conducive to favorable press reviews, to talk and occasionally vote like an anti-Bush Democrat) seize upon the suicide bombings in Iraq as proof that success there is impossible. Therefore, they solemnly intone, we should stop wasting lives and treasure trying to achieve it.

It is hard to imagine a greater incentive to more attacks against Iraqi civilians, security personnel, government officials and their families — and, yes, against our own and other Coalition forces. Call it the “cycle of violence.”

To be sure, the fact that the opportunities continue to exist for such attacks is not necessarily the fault of the critics. They and, for that matter, supporters of the war effort can legitimately feel frustration that the “security situation in Iraq” (as it is euphemistically known) has not been stabilized before now in Baghdad and other persistent areas of insurgent activity.

That said, it is virtually impossible in any but the most totalitarian of societies to prevent determined people from inflicting casualties on targets of opportunity, particularly when such people are willing to kill themselves in the process. But we must also hold accountable those who are, in effect, rewarding our enemies for engaging in such behavior by translating the latters’ murderous actions into the realization of political objectives.

Unfortunately, Democratic defeatism is not only encouraging our enemies in Iraq. Since that conflict is but one front in a far larger, indeed global war (one best described as the War for the Free World), those insisting that we cut our losses with respect to Iraq are also fueling dynamics elsewhere that are likely to give rise to a number of other, deeply problematic strategic outcomes.

One need look no farther than the Mideast’s other flash point du jour: the conflict in Lebanon between the Free World’s outpost in the region, Israel, and Hezbollah. Even though nearly all Democrats have expressed support for Israel’s efforts to neutralize this virulent terrorist organization, they cannot escape a grim reality: The Democrats’ incessant, partisan efforts to undermine President Bush’s authority that are diminishing the prospects for victory in Iraq are also weakening his administration’s ability to resist mostly foreign pressure to adopt a more neutral stance vis-a-vis the Jewish State in the midst of its death-struggle with our common, Islamofascist enemies.

Terrorists in the Fertile Crescent are not the only ones attuned to the perceived dissipation of domestic support for the fight for the future of Iraq. The Iranian and Syrian regimes, which take pride in having destabilized the nascent Iraqi democracy, have clearly been emboldened to precipitate and fuel a second front in Lebanon.

American defeatism will breed still more setbacks if, as seems the case at the moment, freedom’s enemies get their way by inducing the Bush team to: impose a premature cease-fire on Israel; insert an international peacekeeping force that will surely prove to be hostile to the Jewish State and protective of her foes; and reward Hezbollah for its outrages by compelling the Israelis to cede to Lebanon strategic territory (dubbed “Shabaa Farms”) taken from Syria in the 1967.

Hard experience tells us that defeatism is an indulgence great nations cannot afford in time of war. Its full costs may not become apparent immediately. But the Free World, including the United States itself, will suffer grievously for encouraging our enemies’ conviction that we lack the will and resolve to stand with our friends when the going get gets tough.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is the president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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