- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2006

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We are, by nature, an optimistic people. That optimism may be much in evidence at the polls across America today.

Ironically, the current optimism arises from a pessimistic attitude many of our countrymen have about the status quo, particularly in Iraq. They seem poised to support Democratic politicians (and a few Republican ones) who promise “change.” Our inveterate optimism tells us doing things differently will surely result in better outcomes.

As George and Ira Gershwin rhapsodized, “It ain’t necessarily so.” Before we cast our votes, each of us who wants change had better be sure we know the answer to the $64 billion question: Change to what?

Some of the changes on offer are easy to discern. Votes for candidates critical of President Bush’s handling of “the Global War on Terror” can bring tectonic shifts in majority control of the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate. The result could turn over the Speaker’s gavel to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a caricature of what Jeane Kirkpatrick was talking about when she coined the term “San Francisco Democrat” to describe Blame-America-First, anti-military partisans of our political left.

A Democratic majority would also entrust the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee to Rep. Charles Rangel, who promises to cut off funding for military operations in Iraq, and that of the House Judiciary Committee to Rep. John Conyers, who has reportedly drawn up a 300-page resolution of impeachment for Mr. Bush. And too many politicians to count have pledged to drive Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ignominiously from office.

Such agendas will effectively bring the executive branch to a screeching halt for the next two years. They will produce change in Iraq, alright. But is unlikely to be an improvement.

Unfortunately, the closest thing to a plan the Democrats have conjured up for changing things in Iraq suggests the effects of their ascendancy in the midterm elections will produce a rout for American security interests there and far beyond. It seems for marketing purposes to reduce down to the “5 Rs”: a regional approach; reconciliation within Iraq; responsibility and accountability here at home; reconstruction; and redeployment. These platitudes sound appealing. But consider each in turn and it is pretty clear that, if adopted in the way the top Democrats have in mind, they will not actually improve things, either in Iraq or elsewhere.

For example, a “regional approach” is a euphemism for turning Iraq over to the tender mercies of Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia — an idea that will shortly be given political cover by that inveterate appeaser, former Secretary of State James Baker. A commission Mr. Baker chairs with former Rep. Lee Hamilton is poised to recommend we buy into a protection racket by rewarding the thugs in Tehran and Damascus and our so-called “allies” in Riyadh for having done everything possible to destroy the Iraqis’ fragile experiment in democracy.

Never mind that such appeasement will produce more bad behavior from these quarters, not less. That is especially true if, at the same time in the name of “reconciliation,” we compel those who have risked everything to work with us to share power with “insurgents” determined to defeat us and kill them.

“Responsibility and accountability” seem basically to be code for firing Mr. Rumsfeld and giving more power to State Department types (see above). Optimism may persuade the uninitiated to believe anybody would be better than the current Pentagon chief. But, it is nonsense that Don Rumsfeld bears exclusive responsibility for our problems or that changing this horse in war’s midstream will do other than complicate the military’s role at a critical juncture.

Given the bleating of those offering/demanding change in Iraq about the war’s costs there, it also seems unlikely that more money will actually be spent on the country’s “reconstruction,” let alone spent more effectively. And “redeployment” amounts to: (a) full-blown strategic retreat and defeat; or (b) an untenable pledge to keep large numbers of troops elsewhere in the region and somehow to reinsert them into Iraq when (not if) things get worse. Either way, the implications are ominous.

In short, the “changes” likely to flow from these initiatives will please the public even less than our present posture. While optimism may tell us a new course has to be more to our liking, some alternatives will be far less so. And, sadly, those seem to be the ones now on offer from the prospective House and Senate Democratic leadership.

Just how unsatisfactory things can get was made evident by the great public service performed last weekend when Fox News Channel aired on five occasions excerpts of a powerful documentary titled, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” (www.ObsessiontheMovie.com).

No one who saw its depiction of the true, global nature of the threat of Islamofascism can believe that our enemies will be appeased, let alone deterred, by the sort of course-correction many now promise in Iraq. Changes that result in a greater threat to our lives, to our children’s futures and to our country are distinct possibilities, and presumably not what most American voters want.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. held senior positions in the Reagan Defense Department and is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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