- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 26, 2007

On Tuesday, the Democrats finally got it — no timetables for withdrawal from Iraq. But what about the Republicans? Will they finally understand that fighting terrorism is more complicated than going on offense?

On May 15, Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, pointed to the elephant in the living room — the possible role of U.S. policy in fomenting terrorism.

His remarks were made during the Republican presidential debate in Columbia, S.C., and came two days after confirmation that talks between Iran and the United States on stabilizing Iraq would finally take place.

His analysis is not something red-state (or even blue-state) conservatives want to hear. Rudy Giuliani, for one, was utterly indignant at the suggestion that American policy in some way caused the September 11, 2001 attacks.

While it would, of course, be outrageous to suggest that Islamic extremists are solely motivated by our policies in the Mideast spanning decades, providing eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth rationale for their grisly terrorist attacks, it is true, as Mr. Paul said, that “blowback” (CIA-speak for negative consequences) occurs when our policies offend Arab and Muslim sensibilities.

To deny this is to deny reality and common sense. But, Mr. Giuliani claims that September 11 resulted in whole from resentment over the fact we are rich and free. That is certainly a big part of it. But it is not the whole story.

And, now, we are engaged in a bloody, brutal campaign in Iraq to try to bring stability to chaos — an epic struggle that grew out of our determination to fight and win the Global War on Terrorism — over there that the September 11 attacks catalyzed — over here.

What was it that Albert Einstein said about the definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? For that matter, what was it he told his fellow Zionists about adopting the right attitude toward the neighbors, who admittedly didn’t exactly roll out the welcome wagon?

September 11 should have been a wake-up call to re-examine our relations in the global village that, with the dawn of the 21st century, is smaller and more interconnected than ever.

But now — as we face the possibility of defeat in Iraq and an ensuing catastrophe in the Middle East — we have, perhaps, an even more excellent opportunity to re-examine those relationships.

In fact, I can’t think of a more perfect time for such a re-examination — given that every credible actor in the unfolding Iraq drama, including the new “war czar” Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, has stated categorically that it will take a political and diplomatic solution, not a military solution per se, to resolve this particular conflict as well as the broader Middle East conflict.

Surely, as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker prepares for talks with his Iranian counterpart, starting appropriately on Memorial Day, he must be pondering the wisdom of George Washington’s farewell warning about “foreign entanglements,” which Mr. Paul energetically defended.

Meanwhile back home at the ranch, Congress has finally taken a page — however tenuously — from leaders such as Washington, FDR and Reagan. In the face of disparate views and desperate causes, they strengthened and unified the nation — not divided and weakened it. If they were alive today, their counsel might go something like this:

“Let’s not unwind the war in an unwise way like shifting in reverse on a fast-moving highway. Give the president enough leverage to stabilize the situation in Iraq — under the very able command of General David H. Petraeus — while the diplomatic and political tracks go forward. Interim stability through military measures will, after all, facilitate the lasting stability that political and diplomatic solutions will make possible. And, remember: You bear some responsibility for this mess in Iraq since you voted overwhelmingly ‘to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq’ five years ago this October 11.”

By following such a wise course, a “new birth of freedom,” in the words of President Lincoln at Gettysburg seven score and four years ago, will finally have a chance to radiate outward from Iraq to the broader Middle East.

God willing, we “the living” might open wide the path of peace in the Middle East in pursuit of the “unfinished work” of those thousands of brave American soldiers who have given “the last full measure of devotion” in Iraq.

That’s a silver lining we can all pray for this Memorial Day.

MARY CLAIRE KENDALL

Ms. Kendall is a prolific fiction and nonfiction writer having written professionally since 1986, initially as a speechwriter.

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