Jewish World Review Dec. 20, 2004 / 8 Teves, 5765

Zev Chafets

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Armor fiasco
could backfire | During the presidential campaign, John Kerry vacillated between two anthems: Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender" and "I Won't Back Down," by Tom Petty.

Bush used "Still the One" until its composer, John Hall, told him to cease and desist. There is no indication the President cared. He's not a music lover. But every administration needs a theme song. Since Kerry no longer needs one, Bush should borrow one of his.

"No Surrender," despite its title, is a melancholy tale of youthful determination gone soft. Petty's hard line - You can stand me up at the gate of hell, but I won't back down - is a better fit for the President.

Of course, it is Bush's pugnacious self-confidence, even more than his Texan Christianity, that drives critics berserk. Sophisticates trained to value irony, self-doubt and skepticism (except, of course, regarding global warming), they see uncertainty as the mark of intellectual honesty. In fact, they're certain of it.

During the election campaign, Democrats begged Bush to cop to a mistake - just one teensy-weensy error. He refused, partly, I think, out of sheer sadism. A class-traitor if ever there was one, the President enjoys pushing the indignant squeal button of his fellow Ivy Leaguers.

Now Bush's critics (including some self-interested Republicans) want him to admit that the war in Iraq has gone wrong by firing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The immediate justification is equipment shortages, an issue that made headlines when a G.I. complained to Rumsfeld that he and his buddies had to rummage in scrap heaps to "up-armor" their vehicles.

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The President has no reason to do this. For one thing, his policy in Iraq is not a failure. But it will be if he listens to his detractors.

The U.S. can't lose a shooting war in Iraq. Its military might is too great. But insurgencies are fueled by optimism. The hope of the jihadis and Saddamites is that they can persuade Americans that this war, like Vietnam, is unwinnable.

Bush's job is to take that hope away by making America's enemies, in Iraq and beyond, believe that the U.S. cannot and will not be stopped.

Reelection helps. Nobody in the Middle East read the results as a vindication of Republican principles on gay marriage, abortion or Social Security reform. It was seen as a mandate for war. Bush is the strong horse, and he has been given four more years to run.

The Arab world understands the determined use of force almost as much as it is mystified by irony (bitterly cynical humor is another story). Bush's victory, followed by the successful election in Afghanistan and the brutal capture of Fallujah, has had a clarifying effect.

Suddenly, the Sunnis in Iraq are talking seriously about participating in the Jan. 30 election. This is not due to a spontaneous outbreak of Jeffersonian enlightenment in Saddamland. On the contrary, it is a cool appreciation of which way the strong horse is running.

Similar appraisals are taking place around the region. Cairo wants to help the U.S. broker a Palestinian peace with Israel, and pro-American articles are breaking out in the usually poisonous Egyptian media. The Palestinian leadership has admitted that armed uprising is counterproductive and is preparing for its own free election.

It's too early to declare victory, but this is progress. Nothing would halt it faster than Rumsfeld's forced resignation. Everyone from Casablanca to the Khyber Pass would take it as declaration of defeat.

No wartime President can afford to be Hamlet, or even Bruce Springsteen. This is Tom Petty time: Gonna stand my ground, won't be turned around/And I'll keep this world from draggin' me down/... I won't back down.

Bush should get the song translated into Arabic, Persian and French and have the Marine band - conducted by Donald Rumsfeld - play it at his inauguration.

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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