The questions for the day are: Can a society steeped in postmodernism in its elite cultural institutions and that has only recently survived its first postmodern Presidency summon the moral courage for the commitment necessary to win the war on terrorism? Can we fight such a war in a 24/7 media market? Can an open society ever fight and win a total war that is considered just? Strangely enough, much of the answers to these questions depend on the “loyal” opposition, which has completely lost the grounding to be coherent and responsible and, in the process, is doing a great disservice to our mission.
In the hour of our greatest crisis since the beginning of World War II, the American left, primarily embodied in the Democratic Party, has no higher calling than to illegitimize the war effort and discredit those who are leading it. There once was a responsible left in this country, but the old leaders of that political wing would not recognize their descendants.Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Humphrey are spinning in their graves listening to Dean, Kerry, Gore, and the younger Kennedy, and where are the Scoop Jacksons of the current Democrats? Joseph Lieberman is the only one who remotely resembles him, and he was dismissed early in the Presidential primary as a result.
Not one of the present leaders on the left could credibly utter the words of JFK—“let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty”. And not one can credibly define the parameters of the purposeful use of American power in the world or the purposes for or conditions under which young Americans are to be sent in harm’s way. None of them, especially their presumptive Presidential nominee, can utter anything but the platitudes of internationalizing the conflict and seeking approval and assistance from the UN, not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself. Forget about the failure to find WMDs, prison abuses, and the hawkish neo-conservative “cabal” they whine about. Those are red herrings. The real hang-up for this crowd is that they are mired in their formative Vietnam experience, wherein any projection of American power, particularly in the national interest, is considered morally flawed.
They just don’t get it. We cannot opt out of this war or delegate it to others. The leadership of the left, John Kerry in particular, needs to understand this, not as an election issue or as legitimate disagreement over tactics, but in terms of our mission as a fundamental American interest. It’s about Western civilization and America’s leadership of it. As Victor Davis Hanson has noted, “We are not in a war with a crook in Haiti, this is no Grenada or Panama, or even Kosovo or Bosnia. No, we are in a worldwide struggle the likes of which we have not seen since World War II. In a war such as this, the alternative is not a brokered peace, but abject Western suicide and all that it entails.”
As for President Bush, this is not his Vietnam, nor is it even his Tet, but he is certainly at a tipping point, no thanks to the irresponsibility of the “loyal” opposition. The need is for a “crisis speech”, as described by Carnes Lord in The Modern Prince, to stop the psychological and political bleeding now, and Bush is the only one who can do it. As an example, he offers an excerpt from Churchill’s first address to the House of Commons in 1940: “…victory—victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.” The President should grab some old Churchill speeches and hit the road!