More problematic, though, is what seems to be shaping up as a Democrat theme in coming months -- defeatism. Kerry downplayed the importance of the vote, denied that it conferred any legitimacy on the interim government, predicted that Bush will screw up whatever small opportunities were presented, etc., etc., etc. Elsewhere some Democrat spokespersons are sounding a call for withdrawal. They are also moving the goalposts again -- this means nothing, they argue, unless there are real payoffs, in terms of Sunni full participation, in terms of more security, in terms of economic reconstruction, etc.
Nobody denies that there are problems down the road, and that there is a lot of hard and dangerous work to be done. But the problems cannot be overcome, the danger met, nor the tasks accomplished unless the American government remains committed to seeing this thing through to a successful conclusion. We need to recognize just how very much has been accomplished even as we note just how much remains to be done. The greatest danger we and the Iraqi people face is the Democrats' drumbeat of defeatism.
We know that Bush is in this for the long haul. So far, the Republican members of Congress, some of whom [especially Senators] were getting downright shaky, seem to be firming up in the wake of the elections. The theme from them and from responsible Democrats is that we have to knuckle down and get this thing done, and done right. Bush continues to have a working majority. The tide has turned in Iraq, and for the moment it is flowing in Bush's direction here at home. But we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from this great undertaking, nor allow the defeatists to undermine our resolve.
In November of 1863 the American nation faced just such a turning of the tide. A great victory had been won, Americans had died in great numbers, the opposition party was calling for an end to the violence, and a beleaguered president called upon the nation to stiffen its resolve. He asked his countrymen,
"...to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
I'm not saying that Bush is Lincoln, nor that the dangers we face compare to those of the Civil War, but the message we must proclaim is the same. We cannot just withdraw, as we did in Vietnam and in the first Gulf War. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury, which we have indulged far too many times, of intervening abroad and then abandoning the cause leaving what Henry Kissinger called "bloody messes in our wake." We owe the Iraqi people more than that. We owe the world that. Most importantly we owe it to ourselves.