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April 02, 2006

MARK STEYN:

But, while Charlie Sheen is undoubtedly a valiant leader, you couldn't help noticing it was followers the anti-war crowd seemed to be short of on the third anniversary. The next weekend half a million illegal immigrants -- whoops, sorry, half a million fine upstanding members of the Undocumented-American community-- took to the streets, and you suddenly realized what a big-time demonstration is supposed to look like. These guys aren't even meant to be in the country and they can organize a better public protest movement than an anti-war crowd that's promoted 24/7 by the media and Hollywood.

Well, OK, half the anti-war crowd aren't meant to be in the country either, if they'd kept their promise to move to Canada after the last election. But my point is there's no mass anti-war movement. Some commentators claimed to be puzzled by the low turnout at a time when the polls show Iraq increasingly unpopular. But there are two kinds of persons objecting to the war: There's a shriveled Sheehan-Sheen left that's in effect urging on American failure in Iraq, and there's a potentially far larger group to their right that's increasingly wary of the official conception of the war. The latter don't want America to lose, they want to win -- decisively. And on the day's headlines -- on everything from the Danish cartoon jihad to the Afghan facing death for apostasy -- the fainthearted response of "public diplomacy" is in danger of sounding only marginally less nutty than Charlie Sheen. . . .

To win a war, you don't spin a war. Millions of ordinary citizens are not going to stick with a "long war" (as the administration now calls it) if they feel they're being dissembled to about its nature. One reason we regard Churchill as a great man is that his speeches about the nature of the enemy don't require unspinning or detriangulating.

Read the whole thing, especially the last paragraph. Bush's problem on the war is that he's losing the Jacksonian base, which is no longer confident that he's willing to do whatever it takes to win, regardless of foreign or public opinion.

UPDATE: Reader Barry Dauphin emails:

It does sound like the Jacksonians might be bailing on the President, but then they arenít able to live up to Jackson. This isnít 1940s where dissemination of information was controlled through filters called ďeditorsĒ and prior to the plethora of relativisms of contemporary times. If the Jacksonians have another candidate in mind, let them name him/her. The silence will be deafening. If the Jacksonians truly believe their rhetoric, itís time to suck it up and carry some of the rhetorical weight that someone like Steyn have been carrying. Too many are sounding retreat or simply grousing. Is this a long, hard slog or not? If it is, then the tough Jacksonians should stop acting like whining, ninny wimps and instead be constructive. Dealing with the anti-war rhetoric or with policy that is not exactly to their liking is surely easier than actually crafting and implementing policy in these times.

This is a fair criticism up to a point. But nobody but the President can be President, and you can understand people who would support a full-hearted war being unwilling to support a half-hearted one. On the other hand, I remain unconvinced that now is the time to go all Duncan Black on the mideast, and am reluctant to second-guess too much on that account.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Harmon Dow thinks the GOP has earned a loss in 2006:

Speaking as a card-carrying Jacksonian (Southern boy, Scottish on mother's side, both families in their 4th century as Americans, & a military brat to boot) let me tell you what I've been thinking lately. My problem isn't with Bush. I can live with him - I tell my liberal friends here in Chicago that he's really really a moderate, but they can't seem to grasp that.

My problem is with the Republicans who don't back Bush. They didn't back him on Social Security, they don't seem to be backing him on immigration, & I don't think they are stepping up to the plate & backing him on the war.

So this Jacksonian is thinking "why bother with the Republicans?" After the fall, we'll have two more years with Bush in the White House. He's not going to budge on the war. I expect I'll just sit this one out.

The Congressional Republicans don't seem to have put themselves in a good position. Bush haters won't vote for them. But Bush-lovers may not either. Meanwhile, reader Fred Butzen writes:

You write, "... you can understand people who would support a full-hearted war being unwilling to support a half-hearted one."

That is half correct. Large numbers of paleo-conservatives (e.g., W. F. Buckley) would be much happier with a Kissingeresque put-in-a-strongman-and-nail-down-the-lid strategy for the Middle East. They want no war at all.

What the paleos don't understand is that since 1989, the world has changed utterly. Societies that are in juxtaposition influence each other and, sooner or later, arrive at an equilibrium; with the advent of globalization and the Internet, all societies now are juxtaposed. Bush grasps what so many of his critics on the right miss: either we will make them more like us, or inevitably they will make us more like them.

Iraq is the first step on a long road to making them more like us. It may be too little, it may be too late; but it's a strategy, which is more than the isolationists of the left or right are offering.

I've always felt that Kissinger's reputation exceeded his accomplishments. And yes, the alternative is surrender, or megadeaths. Meanwhile, here's more on how things are going and what that means for strategy.

UPDATE: More thoughts on what we ought to be doing -- more aggressive combat in Iraq, basically -- here, along with a worry that America doesn't have the stomach for it. You can't win a war if you're not willing to fight; Bush can be blamed for not being aggressive enough, of course, but he hasn't had a lot of support at home.

I'm no expert, and hence don't offer a lot of military suggestions, but I wonder if a Pablo-Escobar style campaign against the Iranian mullahs -- going after their business interests, vacation homes, etc. using irregular forces -- might be more effective than air strikes or an invasion, with less risk. For that matter, such an approach might work against some of the Saudi supporters of terror.

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