As I Please

Commentary by Tom Gregg        November 1, 2003 

Iraq: The Road Ahead 

At this moment, the enemies of freedom and common decency, from Saddam bitter-enders and Islamofascists to their Western enablers and apologists, are coming together in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to defeat America in Iraq. 

Here at home, the enemy can count on some de facto allies: Bush-hating "progressives" inside and outside the Democratic Party, American Muslims who in their hearts prefer Islamic fundamentalism to democratic pluralism, and certain anti-Semitic paleoconservatives. It would be wrong to call these people supporters of terrorism; most of them are not. But their words and actions in this time of troubles encourage the enemy to think that America's will is weak.

And the question of will is important, for this is the moment of balance. The next six months will be decisive for the war on terrorism and the future of our country. If the enemy can drive America from Iraq, that would spell the end of the counteroffensive against terrorism and probably the end of Iraq. It would also destroy the Bush presidency and usher a terrorist-appeasing Democrat like Howard Dean or John Kerry into the Oval Office. These are the stakes. 

But can the enemy win? Militarily, no. The Saddam holdouts and foreign terrorists fighting in Iraq have virtually no popular support. A large majority of the population is adamantly opposed to a restoration of the Ba'ath regime, and nearly all Iraqis are united in their hatred of the foreign terrorist element. 

Thus the enemy's only hope of victory is on the psychological front. With the examples of Vietnam and Somalia before them, they are trying to fill as many body bags as possible. At some point, they reason, America will simply tire of the bloodletting and just go away. 

There is no sign of that happening, however, and time is not on the terrorists' side. More and more Iraqis are being brought into the nation's reconstituted security forces. Within in months, US troops will be freed from the necessity of performing routine patrols and guard duty, and the enemy will face the dismal prospect of fighting fellow Moslems. Hence the recent turn to indiscriminate terror. 

The enemy clearly hopes to bring off a spectacular attack in which scores or even hundreds of people are killed. Such a massacre, they believe, will bring about the American collapse of will that constitutes their only real hope of victory. For if a bloodied and humiliated America leaves Iraq, no one will rush in to fill the vacuum—not the UN, not the European Union, not the Arab League, not the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. Iraq would in that case become a second Lebanon: helpless against its rapacious neighbors and a safe haven for transnational terrorists. 

The United States did the world a large favor by ending the rule of the bloodthirsty tyrant, Saddam Hussein. But since no good deed goes unpunished, America and its president now find themselves condemned for “aggression, “terrorism” and “war crimes.” Such charges are only to be expected from the usual suspects in the Moslem world. Yet is the rhetoric of Bush-hating Western “progressives” on this issue so very different? Would Barbra Streisand, for instance, disagree with the Syrian Ba’ath Party line that “American Values Under Bush are Anti-Human”? No, probably not. 

It was certainly possible for reasonable people to disagree over the wisdom of going to war with Iraq. But that argument is now a question for the historians. Today’s question is a little different: America is at war, and who do you want to win? For most of us the answer is obvious—and because it is obvious, the terrorists will not win no matter how many people they manage to kill in the days and weeks ahead. 

Copyright © 2003 by Thomas M. Gregg