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October 25, 2006

Fortitude And America's Flirtation With "Realism"

Another grey dawn in western Maryland. I gaze out the window of my small office and watch the leaves swirl across the stone wall. For some reason, the sight sends small shivers up my spine. I reach for my coffee, my bare toes blindly seeking the warmth of the small dachshund snoring softly at my feet; small comforts in a world that suddenly seems bleak and cheerless. As if to confirm my worst suspicions, Sausage opens one eye and steals the blanket right off my lap.

This is obviously the result of appeasing ruthless dictators with ill-timed rawhide bones. Treachery is the one constant in history. Nor is this the only depressing thing that awaits me in my morning rounds. For everywhere I turn, I see an America in full retreat:

It's been coming for a long time: the idea that fixing Iraq is the Iraqis' problem, not ours -- that we've done all we can and now it's up to them.

Such arguments have been latent in the Bush administration's Iraq strategy and explicit in Democratic critiques of that strategy for some time. Now Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has declared: "It's their country. . . . They're going to have to govern it, they're going to have to provide security for it, and they're going to have to do it sooner rather than later."

The implication of these arguments is clear: The United States should prepare to leave Iraq, after which the Iraqis will work out their own troubles -- or they won't. In any event, we can no longer help them. This notion is wrong and morally contemptible, and it endangers American security around the world.

I agree. I've been making this case for three years now, here in one of my favorite posts (yes, I know it's too long - get over it). Here, in another too long piece that spilled out of me in helpless fury when I returned from my last blogging hiatus.

Looking back, I sometimes wonder what I am doing here at all. All these words. So many hours of crafting arguments to counter the tides of defeatism and circular logic. "The use of force is wrong/bad. War is not the answer" (which rather begs the question, "So... precisely what do you plan to do about that homicide bomber who wants to kill you?"). Then there's my personal favorite: "America - the richest nation on earth - cannot afford quagmires like Iraq. Besides it's just a distraction from more important jobs like stopping the genocide in Darfur."

Right. And after we've "stopped" the genocide in Darfur (How, precisely? Because it won't stop unless the current government is deposed and then we'll be facing exactly the same situation we're facing in Iraq: chaos and a bloody and confusing aftermath we're still ill-equipped to handle) who will take charge of the reconstruction?

Doubtless John Kerry has a Plan for that which doesn't involve "real allies" who wag the stern fingers of international opprobrium at us while regretfully declining to offer anything in the way of useful assistance, spending US tax dollars that (according to liberals) would be better spend housing the homeless, overstressing an already "broken" American military or increasing the size of our armed forces and intelligence community (measures he has historically opposed, if his Congressional voting record is to be trusted). After he unveils this new Plan, for his next magical trick the Accidental Candidate will amaze and confuse us by walking on water.

America, we are told, has had enough of the sort of dewy eyed idealism to be found in the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Paine would get bloody short shrift, were he to test the waters of modern American realism with the sort of nonsense he foisted on our forefathers. We are so much more sophisticated now.

We have to be. The death toll is, what, almost up to the three thousand mark? As that mind-numbing mark looms ever nearer, the question hovers in every American's mind: how much more carnage can a nation of almost three hundred million absorb without being brought to its knees?

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

All this passion, poured out onto a screen in service of something I believed was so right, so worth defending. And for a few brief, shining moments it did indeed seem that something fragile, something precious was being created out of the chaos and mayhem in the Middle East:

MEMRI alerts us to an interesting editorial from the Al Hayat, a Lebanese newspaper, contrasting the recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and Osama bin Laden:
There is a difference between an investor and a destroyer, a bomber and a constructor, between those who respect human rights and preserve human integrity, and those who kill innocent people cold-bloodedly, spreading fear, panic and poverty among human beings, causing people to lose sleep, and destroying their lands. I thought about these dissimilarities when the Bangladeshi Muslim Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize. He is the founder of the 'Grameen Bank', established to help the poor, in an effort to bring civilizations, religions and human beings closer to one another, so that they can live in peace. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there is what Osama bin Laden does. He is still hiding from one cave to another, planning how to blow up, destroy and kill; he has introduced the idea of suicide bombers, has founded a terrorist organization, and he does not differentiate between killing a child, a widow, or an elderly.

Pretty strong words, pretty solid condemnation. Moderate Muslims speaking out.

And what's more, a glimmering amongst the madness, of a conversation between Islam and the Vatican.

It is for this that we have spent American blood and sweat, toil, and treasure: to spread these precious ideals far and wide. This is the hope of a better tomorrow. It could not be more timely in a world without borders, where we can no longer hunker down and pray that madmen with bombs and biological weapons will somehow overlook us.

They will not. There is no way we can make ourselves inoffensive, inconspicuous enough. There is no guarantee of safety for a free society. We cannot defeat them by giving in to their demands - we must fight the ideology that fuels their hatred with every resource at our command.

Yet I look to America, once the beacon of freedom, the cradle of democracy and I see a nation with its tail tucked firmly between its legs; afraid to wield its own might in the defense of worthy ideals, ashamed of the greatness of its own ideas.

And I look to Iraq, a nation in turmoil, and I see firm resolve. I see statesmanship of a kind no longer on display in the land of my birth:

We need to be realist but not defeatist. We need to understand that there is a need of utmost urgency to deal with many of the problems of Iraq but we must not give in to panic.

Where are you, America? Truly, these are the times that try men's souls. Now, more than ever, the world needs a strong America.

This is no time to go wobbly.

Posted by Cassandra at October 25, 2006 07:44 AM


This column by Michael Scheuer ought to be required reading for any American before he or she votes.


Posted by: Carrie at October 25, 2006 10:31 AM

Good Piece. I fear like in 90/91 then in 2001/2003 that will be back in the Middle East in 5 to 10 years only this time since I'm retired my sons will be there.
My question is when will America wake up. It's okay to dream about the world being all nice and rosey and lovey, dovey, but it isn't and we need to be realists.
Thanks, once again good piece.

Posted by: Richard at October 25, 2006 10:33 AM

And since WHEN have the Dhimmis NOT wanted to hold everyone's hand and tell them that they can't succeed without John Kerry's plan and Hillary's guts?

Self empowerment? What a novel and heretical idea and one that would work in a country that had KNOWN what a democracy was like.

And that wiener beast of yours is becoming downright vicious. Where is the love, the compassion for the hand that feeds him? The leash that walks him? Meany.

Posted by: Cricket at October 25, 2006 11:19 AM

Good piece, aye.

Posted by: Grim at October 25, 2006 04:27 PM

Where is America ? I cannot speak for any others, but, this one will be at the polls in about 2 weeks. Waiting for them to open, doing everything that I can to ensure that the dhimmicrats do not further pussify my home. You'll pardon the unseeming language, it is sometimes called for.

Posted by: Edward Lunny at October 25, 2006 07:14 PM

But we will go wobbly. Eventually the political will to continue will be lost. Iraq is too hard! We want to get back to Oprah and shark attacks and The Pretty White Girl Who's Missing™.

Look- America no longer fights wars in a way that brings decisive victory. There's no Gen Curtis Lemay putting Japan to the torch. No Gen Patton steamrolling the Nazis all the way back to Germany. We don't make war like that anymore. So, we won't see victories like that anymore.

We live in a society that demands instant gratification. We now want that same instant gratification in the GWOT. It's not going to happen. And sooner or later, soft, easily bored America will want to move on.

It's sad, I know. But we are too divided among ourselves to go all the way. Too many of us want to quit, because it's too hard.

Posted by: barry at October 25, 2006 08:58 PM

Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. Someone said that, long ago.

It is still true.

Have we got isolationists?

Yeah, baby.

We have had isolationists since the beginning.

Another serving of Monroe Doctrine, anyone?

The prevalence of isolationism is cyclical. We go iso, we are attacked, we get involved, whip some ass, and go home. We strut around for a while.
Then we go iso again.

I read about Charles Lindberg (Lucky Lindy) many years ago. He was a rabid isolationist, and believed that German fascism and Japanese fascism would never affect Fortress America. He was wrong, but kept us from helping stop the anschluss and the occupation of Paris.

The iso feeling was so bad that Pres Roosevelt had to resort to "lend-lease" to help out the British. The whole deal was thinly-veiled military support, but allowed the isos to claim we were not really involved.

So what does it take?

William Randolph Hearst believed he had the solution. Stage an event. So he arranged for the Maine disaster in 1898. End of iso.

WWI? Lusitania.

WWII? Pearl Harbor.

It always seems to take a personal affront to get our attention.

This time it was 9-11.

But wait. CNN will not rerun videos from 9-11. The deaths of American CIVILIANS, at the hand of radical Muslims, is too tough to handle. Too many people would be upset (i.e., give up iso).

But CNN will run videos of snipers killing American SOLDIERS. Americans are strong enough to stomach such displays.

The CNN moral: killing civilians bad, killing soldiers good. U S government bad, Islamofascists good. Let's just all become Muslims, live under sharia, and everyone will be at peace.

Of course it does not matter to CNN that it is mostly muslims killing muslims these days. And that would not change if we were all muslim.

Cheer up, kid. As I said before, folk read you. Just look at your site meter!

Posted by: Tom Johnson at October 26, 2006 08:22 AM

Can we have a policy that deals with reality? that would be nice.

Posted by: actus at October 26, 2006 09:18 PM

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