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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Big Talk, Little Will

August 16, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

The defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman by the upstart antiwar Democrat Ned Lamont has sparked a firestorm of debate about the direction of the Democratic Party. My own heart is with those Democrats who worry that just calling for a pullout from Iraq, while it may be necessary, is not a sufficient response to the biggest threat to open societies today — violent, radical Islam. Unless Democrats persuade voters — in the gut — that they understand this larger challenge, it’s going to be hard for them to win the presidency.

That said, though, the Democratic mainstream is nowhere near as dovish as critics depict. Truth be told, some of the most constructive, on-the-money criticism over the past three years about how to rescue Iraq or improve the broader “war on terrorism” has come from Democrats, like Joe Biden, Carl Levin, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Bill Clinton.

But whatever you think of the Democrats, the important point is this: They are not the party in power today.

What should really worry the country is not whether the Democrats are being dragged to the left by antiwar activists who haven’t thought a whit about the larger struggle we’re in. What should worry the country is that the Bush team and the Republican Party, which control all the levers of power and claim to have thought only about this larger struggle, are in total denial about where their strategy has led.

Besides a few mavericks like Chuck Hagel and John McCain on Iraq and Dick Lugar and George Shultz on energy, how many Republicans have stood up and questioned the decision-making that has turned the Iraq war into a fiasco? Had more of them done so, instead of just mindlessly applauding the administration, the White House might have changed course when it had a chance.

Not only is there no honest self-criticism among Republicans, but — and this is truly contemptible — you have Dick Cheney & Friends focusing their public remarks on why Mr. Lamont’s defeat of Mr. Lieberman only proves that Democrats do not understand that we are in a titanic struggle with “Islamic fascists” and are therefore unfit to lead.

Oh, really? Well, I just have one question for Mr. Cheney: If we’re in such a titanic struggle with radical Islam, and if getting Iraq right is at the center of that struggle, why did you “tough guys” fight the Iraq war with the Rumsfeld Doctrine — just enough troops to lose — and not the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force to create the necessary foundation of any democracy-building project, which is security? How could you send so few troops to fight such an important war when it was obvious that without security Iraqis would fall back on their tribal militias?

Mr. Cheney, if we’re in a titanic struggle with Islamic fascists, why have you and President Bush resisted any serious effort to get Americans to conserve energy? Why do you refuse to push higher mileage standards for U.S. automakers or a gasoline tax that would curb our imports of oil? Here we are in the biggest struggle of our lives and we are funding both sides — the U.S. military with our tax dollars and the radical Islamists and the governments and charities that support them with our gasoline purchases — and you won’t lift a finger to change that. Why? Because it might impose pain on the oil companies and auto lobbies that fund the G.O.P., or require some sacrifice by Americans.

Mr. Cheney, if we’re in a titanic struggle with Islamic fascists, why do you constantly use the “war on terrorism” as a wedge issue in domestic politics to frighten voters away from Democrats. How are we going to sustain such a large, long-term struggle if we are a divided country?

Please, Mr. Cheney, spare us your flag-waving rhetoric about the titanic struggle we are in and how Democrats just don’t understand it. It is just so phony — such a patent ploy to divert Americans from the fact that you have never risen to the challenge of this war. You will the ends, but you won’t will the means. What a fraud!

Friends, we are on a losing trajectory in Iraq, and, as the latest London plot underscores, the wider war with radical Islam is only getting wider. We need to reassess everything we are doing in this “war on terrorism” and figure out what is worth continuing, what needs changing and what sacrifice we need to demand from every American to match our means with our ends. Yes, the Democrats could help by presenting a serious alternative. But unless the party in power for the next two and half years shakes free of its denial, we are in really, really big trouble.


Blogger normansdog said...

could this be Friedman trying to save his own skin by trying to pretend that he wasn't one of the biggest cheer leaders for this war and the oarty pursuing it? Could it be that Friedman is feeling edgy becasue it looks like his palls are going to get their bottoms spanked in November (so he doesn't have to be nice to Cheney any more) and is trcing to prime his escape capsule?
No revisionism will be allowed.
Friedman will fry with the rest of the pro-war-bush-cheney cabal.


6:58 AM  
Blogger mikevotes said...

The Friedman turnaround should be noted. I guess we'll know in 6 months....

Really, I just wanted to say thanks to the host for reprinting this. I don't think the editorials are worth $50/year, but I wanted an excerpt to post.



11:52 AM  
Blogger mikevotes said...

(Found you through blogger search.)

11:53 AM  
Blogger NickShaver said...

Just out of curiosity, are there any great intelligent leaders in the USA? Are there ANY people who know their history and geography, are willing to suggest a productive course of action and stick with it, and who also are in leadership roles..or at least seeking a leadership role?

I'm so sick of the critics on both sides of the aisle..and even in the aisle sometimes..who will criticize BUT have no productive solution to this post-9/11 mess. Yes, Bush and his team are incompetents who seem to have no understand of history (where does this bizarre idea of a unified, democratic Iraq come from?). OK, so WHO has a good solution to this problem? I'm a lifelong Democrat. "My" party is full of critical politicians who have no solutions. FDR, where are you?

4:23 PM  

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