Saturday, August 27, 2005

Premature Celebrations

The Daily Kos had John Thune already autopsied and embalmed on Tuesday. It was a foregone conclusion that the man who staked his political career on saving Ellsworth AFB from being mothballed was a dead man walking. Unfortunately for Kos his judgment on Thune's demise was as dependable as his judgment on just about everything else:

Daschle would've likely saved Ellisworth (like he had done in the past), just like ND's two Dems did their part to protect their local economy (whether BRAC is truly justified or not). But Thune argued in 2004 that he would be best positioned to save Ellsworth as a Republican in a GOP-trifecta-led D.C.

Now, he's been made a fool by his own president, has proven his impotence to the SD voters, and has likely lost 6,000 mostly GOP-leaning jobs in western South Dakota. Not bad for a first-year Senator.

As it all turns out, Ellsworth was given a reprieve, Thune is walking tall in South Dakota, and Kos and the lefties who were gleefully salivating at the pending burial of the man who did Tom Daschle in are now grinding their teeth in frustration. They must feel like Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the road runner.

Read the comments at Kos' site. They're a hoot.

Time For the White House to Play Offense

Tony Blankley says what a lot of the president's supporters are thinking:

In a major USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll from three weeks ago, 32 percent of the public said we can't win the war in Iraq. Another 43 percent predict victory, while -- critically -- 21 percent say "the United States could win the war, but they don't think it will."

If one adds that "could win, but don't think we will win" 21 percent to the 43 percent who predict victory -- one has a very solid 64 percent supporting the war. But if that 21 percent become convinced that our government has given up trying to win, then they could form a 53 percent defeatist majority in the public. It is worth noting that despite the doubts expressed by the public in that Gallup Poll 53 percent of those surveyed still said it was not a mistake to send U.S. troops to Iraq.

But although President Bush suffers from a biased, defeatist mainstream media, he still holds his (and our nation's) fate largely in his own hands. The president and his advisors should puzzle long and hard over what is in the minds of that critical 21 percent of the public who think we can -- but won't -- win the war in Iraq. Let me hazard a guess. Many of the strongest supporters of the president's Iraq war aims are coming to suspect that the president has placed a limit on troop strength in Iraq for reasons extraneous to calculations of victory.

It is hard to argue that the war is going optimally, and the administration argument that more troops wouldn't help is, at the least, counterintuitive. The president says he is sending as many troops as the generals ask for -- which is true. But recently, retired generals, and others, are saying that they are afraid to ask for more. If that is true, it is rather unheroic of the generals not to give the president the unvarnished truth of what is needed. Moreover, it is the president's job not just to listen to the generals but to fire those generals who do not deliver credible plans for victory -- as Lincoln and FDR routinely did.

That aside, Sec. Rumsfeld argues that more troops would merely be a larger footprint, creating more targets for the enemy. But by that analysis any troop level above zero would only increase the targets. Surely there must be an optimum level of fighting troops -- irrespective of how many total troops it takes to support the actual fighters. I have been told that there aren't enough highways in Iraq to support higher useful levels of troops. But that is an argument for the Corp of Engineers to build more temporary roads. As the president rightly says, we must bring the battle to the enemy. After all, on D-Day at Normandy, a shortage of docking facilities led us to invent and bring with us our own manmade docks.

Surely we could use an extra Army division to secure the Syrian and Iranian border, across which the administration asserts enemy terrorists are regularly crossing. A recent hard-fought assault "in force" by our troops in the Sunni triangle that took several casualties was a mere thousand troops -- a mere battalion-level strength -- not even a brigade. If, as many presidential supporters suspect, the president is making do with current in-country troop levels because we don't have enough troops worldwide at our current force levels to properly fight the war in Iraq and also fulfill all our other responsibilities, the president should say so.

We are country of 300 million citizens with an annual GDP of $12 trillion and the lead in virtually all human technologies. Within a couple of years we can marshal whatever level of resources -- men and material -- that are needed to win on this front of the war. The president rightly says that Iraq is currently the central front on the war on terror. We don't need to win this month or this year. We can hold on at current levels until more resources are brought on line.

But what we need -- and what the president's potential and actual war supporters need -- is not only his call for victory (which is gratifying), but a persuasive explanation for why we are doing everything necessary for victory. That will win over the doubting (and growing) 21 percent. Defeat being unacceptable, victory must be seen as inevitable.

Why the president will not lay out in convincing terms his rationale for the way in which the insurgency in Iraq is being fought, why he will not explain, for example, why terrorists are allowed safe havens in Syria and Iran, if, indeed, they are, and why he won't address the nation more frequently without merely repeating a bunch of talking points, is hard to understand. If support for the war continues to erode, the reason for it is not that people are tired of the sacrifice our young soldiers and Marines are making in a far off land, it will be because they no longer see the point of it. As long as the defeatism of the MSM is left uncountered by the White House, doubts and misgivings are going to fester, even among the president's supporters.

As long as the sacrifice our military people are making is left unexplained, a sizable portion of the population of this nation will forget, if they ever knew, why we're fighting. We need constant reminding of what's at stake. We need to be educated about the goals and progress of the war, and that's not happening because the task is being left to an inept and tendentious media. In a sense, the administration is letting our military down by allowing support for their effort to be worn away by the steady, unanswered drip of anti-war negativism and defeatism that we read every morning in the papers and hear every night on the evening news.

We need more relentlessness on offense from the White House and a lot less rope-a-dope.

Silver Lining

The silver lining of Pat Robertson's unfortunate call to assassinate Hugo Chavez is that it gives Christians opportunity to write wonderful pieces like this one by Marvin Olasky highlighting the beauty of Christian belief:

With liberal reporters since 9/11 frequently equating conservative Christians with Quran-thumping Muslims, WORLD has tried to delineate the real differences (see "Osama bin Ashcroft," April 27, 2002). For example, Islam initially expanded through the slaughter of opponents, but Christianity grew through the martyrdom of believers. Muslim extremists issued fatwas against their enemies, but the apostle Paul taught Christians in Rome, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink."

Pat Robertson last week, on his long-running TV show The 700 Club, seemed more Muslim than Christian when he suggested that U.S. operatives assassinate Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez: "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability....I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but...I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it." Two days later he apologized, stating, "Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration ...."

It's good that Mr. Robertson recognized his fault, but the original ad lib already had provided ammunition for enemies of Christ such as Venezuelan VP Jose Vicente Rangel, who sarcastically said that assassination advocacy was "very Christian" and went on to argue that "religious fundamentalism is one of the great problems facing humanity." National and international journalists had also played up the story, often treating Mr. Robertson as if he were the Protestant pope.

Mr. Robertson's comments also had made the day of some Islamic groups. Under the press release heading "PAT ROBERTSON'S FATWA," the Muslim American Society went on offense, screaming that "someone should remind the darling of the Christian Right about the Ten Commandments. About the one that says 'thou shall not kill.' If that had been a Muslim cleric talking about killing a head of state, you would have never heard the end of it."

(Muslim clerics, of course, have done more than talk about killing lots of people, with fatwa followers murdering intellectuals such as Faraj Foda, Hussein Muruwwa, Mahmoud Taha, and Al-Sadeq Al-Nayhoum-and most Americans have never heard their names.)

None of these prudential concerns would matter much if Pat Robertson had been biblically correct in calling for assassination-but it's hard to see either general or specific biblical warrant for his original fatwa. In general, as Paul wrote to Timothy, Christians are to pray "for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions." Hugo Chavez is an evil tyrant but so were many Roman emperors. Paul told Romans to "bless those who persecute you....Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all." Last time I looked, "assassin" was not on the general list of honorable callings. Wartime is different, but last time I looked we weren't at war with Venezuela.

Applying Old Testament history to current politics is sometimes exegetically tricky, but the assassinations of those who fought Israel in Judges 3 and 4-Jael hammering a tent peg into Sisera's brain, Ehud the left-handed man thrusting his sword into the fat belly of the king of Moab-also do not provide warrant for taking out Hugo Chavez. Nor do any of Christ's words or deeds suggest a WWJA-Who Would Jesus Assassinate?-list.

The people most affected by last week's tempest, of course, are Venezuelans, one of whom wrote on WORLD's blog site of Mr. Chavez's demagoguery and election-rigging but noted that "after decades of corruption and ignoring the needs of the poor, our country may deserve a leader like Chavez. The fact is that Venezuela needs revival; a way of life there. All potential leaders are corrupt, and we could end up with someone worse than Chavez. Pray for my people!" Yes, and pray also for missionaries who now face greater danger.

God is the God of history. He raises up leaders and strikes them down. The Christian goal is to follow biblical principles, including "just war" ones, and not to invent our own. If we are careless, we bring dishonor to God's name by making many believe there is no difference between the preeminent religion of peace and the many religions of violence.

Such columns are a lovely witness to a post-Christian society whose understanding of what Christians believe is often based upon caricature and misinformation. It almost makes one thankful that Robertson said what he said.

Weakened Bush Bad For Hillary?

Mickey Kaus at Kausfiles argues that Bush's sagging poll numbers actually hurt Hillary. Here's why:

The same press drumbeat of defeatism about Iraq that has helped bring down Bush's numbers has also emboldened the party's mainstream left base (i.e., not just MoveOn or the DailyKos crowd). They hardly care whether Hillary is a member of the DLC. But they do not want to support someone who voted for the war, as Hillary did. Worse, they want a Democrat who is willing to break from the respectable Beltway Tough-It-Out Consensus now, publicly, in a way Hillary has been unable to do. They're so desperate for a champion they're even temporarily captivated by Sen. Hagel's mere mention of "Vietnam." Hagel/Dean for America! Or maybe Hagel/Gingrich.

The anti-war left may well tear the Democratic party apart, just as it did in 1968, if it can't get its way on the next presidential nominee. This would not necessarily be good for conservatives, though it should be. The reason it might not is that if the left succeeds in nominating a Gene McCarthy or George McGovern, it will tend to draw the Republicans leftward to compete for independent moderates. A Rudy Guiliani might, under such circumstances, look very attractive to the GOP, but his social liberalism would be anathema to conservatives.

If the left does not get its way, and causes a fracture in the party, an impotent Democratic opposition could induce complacency in the Republicans and lead them to nominate someone who lacks the principles to be a wise and good leader. This, some would say, is precisely what happened when Richard Nixon won the nomination and presidency in 1968.

Of course, the other possibility is that the left will lead the Democratic party, one way or the other, over the cliff, and the Republicans will by default establish a political hegemony that'll last for a generation. We'll see.