A Failure Of Leadership

I’ve long been a strong supporter of President Bush on this war. Under his leadership, the United States has deposed two tyrannical regimes, dismantled the dangerous nuclear proliferation network of Dr. A.Q. Khan in Pakistan, ended Libya’s WMD program, and helped foster a new culture of democratic change in the Middle East.

The American Enterprise‘s Karl Zinsmeister writes from Iraq that the war in Iraq is over, and we won. Austin Bay, also in Iraq, writes that he finds visible signs of progress all over Baghdad.

Yet why is it that the majority of Americans polled now say the war wasn’t worth it?

The reason is simple: the media has driven the story in Iraq. The only message that the vast majority of the American population gets is the anti-war party line of the mainstream media. President Bush needs to set the record straight. He needs to control the message about Iraq, and unless he does those numbers will continue to slip.

President Reagan was a master communicator and knew how to inspire the American people. President Clinton was the most media-savvy President this nation has ever known and was able to control his messages on every issue so that they benefitted him politically. President Bush needs the message control of President Clinton and the rhetoric of President Reagan. He needs to remind the American people of why we’re fighting and what we’re fighting for.

The issue of WMDs and DSMs and the runup to the war is academic and irrelevant. The issue of whether Iraq and al-Qaeda were linked before March of 2003 is equally irrelevant. The fact is that we’re in Iraq, and so is al-Qaeda. If we leave Iraq without securing the future of that country, we hand Osama bin Laden the greatest victory he’s attained yet. Bin Laden noted America’s ignominous withdrawal from Mogadishu and determined that a small but fanatical group of insurgents could bring the world’s strongest military to its knees. Were we to do the same in Iraq it would ensure that al-Qaeda would become even more powerful and dangerous. For better or for worse, the war on terror now indisputably lies with victory in Iraq.

President Bush needs to make this absolutely clear to the American people. He needs to remind us of who and what we are fighting. As Mr. Bay writes:

It seems America wants to get on with its Electra-Glide life, that Sept. 10 sense of freedom and security, without finishing the job. The military is fighting, the Iraqi people are fighting, but where is the US political class? The Bush administration has yet to ask the American people — correction, has yet to demand of the American people — the sustained, shared sacrifice it takes to win this long, intricate war of bullets, ballots and bricks.

Mr. Bay is correct. America’s martial spirit smashed Hitler and Tojo. America’s martial spirit destroyed the Hussein regime. America’s martial spirit can send al-Qaeda into the dustbin of history and remake the Middle East into a more democratic and stable region.

But America’s martial spirit is also fickle. We’re a restless culture, and while that is a source of our dynamism and strength, it is also a source of our weakness. Contrary to the idea of American “empire” we’ve neither the patience nor the will for imperial pursuits. It simply isn’t in the American spirit.

President Bush has to remind us that we are still at war with an implacable enemy that will do whatever it can to destroy us totally, and the threat of attack means that we can never go back to the days of September 10, 2001. Our dynamic culture causes us to often forget our own history, even the events of just under four years ago. We need to be reminded that outside our insular and insignificant world of American Idols and spoiled wealthy heiresses there is a dangerous and deadly ideology that splits the world into the House of Submission and the House of War.

We have been fortunate so far that the American homeland has not been hit again. Part of that is luck, but much of it is due to our willingness to be proactive in fighting this war. We cannot lose our resolve.

The President is more than just the Commander in Chief of our armed forces, he is the leader of this country. It is time for President Bush to lead once again and continue to remind the American people why we’re fighting and why our future depends on our ability to win. President Bush is allowing the media to become a tool for the enemy, and when that happens the victories won by our soldiers are rapidly spun into defeats by a media whose mantra is “if it bleeds, it leads.” We already lost a war not on the battlefield, but in the minds of an American public fed a steady diet of enemy propaganda. We dare not allow the same to happen when the stakes are as high as they are now.

One of the most difficult battles in this war may not be on the streets of Fallujah or the mountains of the Hindu Kush, but right here at home. It is a battle that the President must be willing to fight and willing to win, because the success or failure of this war hinges upon it.

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