Monday, August 22, 2005

American perseverance

Lately, Pres. Bush's poll numbers have been slipping. In part, the slippage reflects doubts about how the war in Iraq is going as deadly attacks on American troops and Iraqis continue with no end in sight. Is the drop in Pres. Bush's pool numbers a sign that the American public is losing its will to complete the job in Iraq in the face of continuing casualties?

Since the Vietnam era, the will of the American people to persevere has been questioned. The U.S. abandoned South Vietnam, left Beirut (after more than 200 Marines died in a truck bombing), and quit Somalia (after taking casualties in the teens and seeing a soldier's dead body dragged through the streets).

Al Qaida's leaders saw all this, too, and concluded that the U.S. would run away rather than sustain casualties. Partly in expectation of this result, Al Qaida attacked the American homeland on September 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000. As Al Qaida expected, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in response to those attacks on U.S. soil. However, instead of becoming bogged down as the Soviets had done, the U.S. won the war quickly. Because of the short duration of the Afghanistan war and the relatively light casualties, Al Qaida did not believe that the U.S.'s willingness to sustain casualties in a prolonged war had changed.

The test of Al Qaeda's belief and our perseverance is presented in Iraq. Al Qaida can not defeat the U.S. in Iraq, but Al Qaida believes that the U.S. will pull out if its casualties continue to mount. Al Qaeda's efforts are designed to sap American will back home and then to carve out a new safe haven with superior will and firepower in the chaotic aftermath. If Al Qaida succeeds, America will be worse off than if we maintain our troops in Iraq until the job is finished, no matter how long it takes. Even liberal Democratic senators such as Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) understand that.

Though the elected Democrats in the Senate may understand what is at stake, the radical wing of the Democratic Party does not. The Cindy Sheehans of the world are shortsighted and seem unconcerned with the effects of their policy prescription to bring home all the troops now. The news media show Cindy Sheehan and her fellow travelers in a favorable light and give a steady drumbeat of negative news in Iraq, helping to influence the American public against the war in Iraq.

Is America losing the will to persevere in Iraq? The elections in 2006 and 2008 will answer the question.

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