Jewish World Review May 12, 2004 / 21 Iyar, 5764
Public opinion in America on the war in Iraq seems to be divided chiefly
between those who think the cause is hopeless, and those who wonder why Iraq
isn't Switzerland yet.
Those in the first group are further divided between those who think our
cause is hopeless because we are undeserving (most prominent Democrats) and
those who think it is hopeless because the Iraqis are undeserving (George
Will, Richard Pipes).
Those in the second group tend to think that if we encounter any
difficulties in Iraq, it has to be because some American (probably President
Bush) was negligent.
Relatively few in our elites are those who recognize that what we are
attempting in Iraq -- to build the first true democracy in the Arab world --
is both immensely difficult and immensely important. And -- given the
difficulty of the task we face -- we're making respectable progress.
Victory in Iraq will come neither quickly nor easily. But unlike World War
II or the Civil War, this is a war we cannot lose on the battlefield. This
is a war we can only lose at the ballot box.
The past isn't always prologue. But it almost always is instructive. The
election of 2004 is the most important since the election of 1864, and there
are remarkable similarities between the election campaigns, then and now.
The Democratic Party today, as in 1864, has been captured by its Copperhead
element. The Copperheads then wanted immediate peace with (that is,
surrender to) the Confederacy. Most of the Copperheads were people who
thought that putting an end to the immense bloodshed of the Civil War was
more important than keeping the country together, much more important than
freeing the slaves. But there were among them a significant minority who
actually sought a Rebel victory.
The war weariness was easy enough to understand. More than 400,000 Union
soldiers lost their lives, out of a population of 22 million. (An
equivalent loss in the war we're fighting now would be 4.8 million.) There
were (thank God!) no opinion polls in the spring and summer of 1864. But if
there had been, they would have shown that President Abraham Lincoln was in
deep political trouble.
Elections in which an incumbent president is running typically are referenda
on the job performance of the incumbent. In wartime, job performance is
determined by what happens on the battlefield. It wasn't until Sherman
captured Atlanta on Sept. 2nd that Lincoln pulled into the lead.
President Bush's fate likely will be determined by what happens in Iraq.
Fortunately, things are going better there than what a news media dominated
by Copperheads would have you believe.
On May 4, about 150 of Iraq's most prominent Shi'ia religious leaders
gathered in Baghdad to demand that Moktada al Sadr withdraw his militia from
the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, stop storing weapons in mosques, and
turn power back to the U.S. supported Iraqi police.
The meeting took place after several thousand Iraqis gathered outside the
Imam Ali mosque in Najaf to protest against Sadr, and a mysterious group
that calls itself the Thulfiqar Army, began murdering members of his
"Several Shi'ite leaders acknowledged that they had delayed issuing their
statement until there were clear signs that public opinion among Shi'ites
had moved strongly against Mr. Sadr," wrote John Burns in the New York
The Shi'ia clerics also called for "a rapid return to the American-led
negotiations on Iraq's political future," Burns wrote.
Their renewed interest in negotiations may have been prompted by the
appointment (and swift removal) of a former Republican Guard officer to head
the Iraqi forces supporting the Marines in Fallujah. Whether blind luck or
a product of a deliberate ploy, this served to remind the Shi'ia that they
don't hold all the cards.
In any event, the U.S. strategy of patience and "talk talk, fight fight"
seems to working better than you'd gather from most of the news stories
coming out of Iraq.
Abraham Lincoln made mistakes during the Civil War. But the cause was just,
and he had the courage and steadfastness to see it through. Our cause in
Iraq is just, and vitally important. President Bush has the courage to see
it through. Do we?
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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