Whatever foreign policy adjustments follow from the mid-term election results, one thing is abundantly clear to me—between now and 2008 it’s time for a long and serious conversation among adults about the Long War. In fact, despite the considerable downside to the prospects for Democrat control of Congress, the configuration of a Bush White House and a Democratic Congress just might be more conducive to the seriousness of the debate. For the fact is that Bush himself has become so much of the issue that reasonable perspective among the leaders of the “loyal opposition” and their rabid left wing, anti-Bush chorus has become almost impossible. With Democrats in charge of the legislative branch, they can no longer hide behind their nay-saying, anti-Bush rhetoric and maybe some maturity and responsibility will emerge.Opinion from several for whose judgment I respect is now beginning to evolve along the lines that the situation in Iraq is so intractable that new definitions of success must be openly considered.
Charles Kesler believes that anti-Bush attitudes among Democratic leaders render them incapable of dealing with his administration in good faith and that the entire debate must be carried by the 2008 Presidential contenders. Steve Forbes is convinced that the only way Iraq can be held together without a tyrant is by establishing Swiss-style autonomous regions for Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis, somewhat like our federal system. Charles Krauthammer says that we should make it clear to the Iraqis that we have done all we can do to deliver them the opportunity to have a democratic order under the rule of law and it’s now up to them to step up and take it. And David Brooks says that it’s time to adjust our plans to reality—that the country is an exercise in futility, always has been, likely always will be, and he cites the history to support this contention. Finally, and most visionary, Newt Gingrich has a step-by-step plan for how the President should proceed from here, modeled after the strategy that Abraham Lincoln chose in the dark days of 1862 when it became clear that the only viable choice for the Union was total victory.
At this point, as an approach to revised strategy, I am proceeding cafeteria-style, selecting a little from all of the above, leaning heavily toward the Gingrich plan, without the pessimism of Brooks and without abandoning the flavor of Bush’s idealistic theme and sponsorship of the universality of freedom as a means of planting some semblance of democracy in the Arab Middle East, both as a foundation for lifting the region out of oppression and into modernity and as a sound investment in American security.
The President may have already sent a significant signal of strategy change to come with his replacement of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with Robert Gates. Gates is no doubt a good man and very capable, but his reputation is very pragmatic and non-ideological, and I wonder if this change is a precursor to a move toward more war policy realism in the James Baker/Brent Scrowcroft vein. Watch closely for any policy concessions in the administration response to the report of the Baker/Hamilton Iraq study group (on which Gates is serving) as well as the Gates confirmation hearings in the Senate. I’m wary.
Of two things I remain absolutely convinced—that Iraq was at the outset and still is a major front in the Long War against Islamofacism and that any strategy that even closely resembles retreat would be a disaster for America and the West. As Tony Blair so well stated in his farewell speech to his party, “We will not win until we shake ourselves free of the wretched capitulation to the propaganda of the enemy—that somehow we are the ones responsible. This isn’t our fault, we didn’t cause it, and it’s not the consequence of foreign policy. It’s an attack on our way of life and it’s global……If we retreat now, we won’t be safer, we will be committing a craven act of surrender that will put our future security in the deepest peril.”