Thomas Friedman has a clear and important piece explaining why Iraq is not Vietnam. Friedman is no cheerleader for the Bush Administration, but he understands that Iraq is simply too important for the United States to show weakness in this matter:
Most of the troubles we have encountered in Iraq (and will in the future) are not because of “occupation” but because of “empowerment.” The U.S. invasion has overturned a whole set of vested interests, particularly those of Iraq’s Sunni Baathist establishment, and begun to empower instead a whole new set of actors: Shiites, Kurds, non-Baathist Sunnis, women and locally elected officials and police. The Qaeda nihilists, the Saddamists, and all the Europeans and the Arab autocrats who had a vested interest in the old status quo are threatened by this.
This is part of the reason why the liberal opposition to rebuilding Iraq is so infuriating. Iraq is an essentially liberal mission – it’s about restoring democracy, empowering women and minorities, and rectifying the “root causes” of terrorism. If those are not worthy missions for the United States, then why the hell do we have a foreign policy at all? If we can’t create something better in Iraq, why bother? If we can’t accept that democracy is not intrinsic to human nature why bother having it at home?
I believe Jonah Goldberg has it exactly right – this is a case of mindless and ravenous partisanship. Consistancy with liberal values would see condemnation of the war, but an absolute insistance on rebuilding Iraq better than it was. Yet the hatred of Bush has forced the Democrats to abandon the values of democracy, personal liberty, and empowering the poor and the downtrodden. As Goldberg wryly notes:
So, since Bush favors the reconstruction of Iraq – which means, as a practical matter, reluctantly favoring the expenditure of blood and treasure – the Democrats must be against it. By this logic, John Edwards should embrace Satan and start drinking heavily, since Bush is a born-again Christian and a teetotaler.
The opposition to Iraq is entirely unprincipled. It sacrifices traditional liberal values for political expediency, sacrificing the future of 20+ million Iraqis on the altar of Democratic partisanship. The Democrats seem far more interested in defeating George W. Bush than they do Saddam Hussein. This kind of attitude is simply unacceptable, especially at a critical time like this. As Goldberg notes:
They [the Democrats] see each setback in Iraq as a political opportunity to question whether we should be there at all. Not only do they send a message of weakening American resolve at precisely the wrong moment, not only do they abandon their historical principles, but they underscore their most enduring political handicap – the impression that Democrats are unserious on foreign policy. They are left with no principle to stand on, no plan of their own to promulgate, and no credibility to trade with. In short, they have ritualistically shorn themselves of everything but animus and appetite. Shame on them.
I don’t think the Democrats know how devastating this attitude is. They’re handing a key issue to the Republicans in such a way that any Democratic candidate is going to have an instant credibility problem right out of the gate. I can already see the kind of TV ads juxtaposing crying Iraqi children and victims of Ba’athist torture with the well-coifed Democrats arguing who will do more to give them the shaft. The Democrats have abandoned real liberalism to partisanship and petulance, and they will pay the price for it in 2004.