October 31, 2003

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER:

Our enemies in Iraq have learned these lessons well. The car bomb of Oct. 12 was aimed at the Baghdad Hotel, housing not just large numbers of Americans but much of the provisional Iraqi government. It would have been the equivalent of the two Beirut bombings in one: a psychologically crushing massacre of Americans — which would have sparked immediate debate at home about withdrawal — and the instantaneous destruction of much of the pro-American government, a political decapitation that would have left very few Iraqis courageous enough to fill the vacuum.

The bomber failed. Most significantly, it was Iraqi police who assisted in shooting up the car at a relatively safe distance and thus preventing a catastrophe. The car bomb campaign has, however, continued with singular ferocity since. The war in Iraq now consists of a race: The United States is racing to build up Iraqi police and armed forces capable of taking over the country’s security — before the Saddam loyalists and their jihadist allies can produce that single, Beirut-like car bomb that so discourages Americans (and Iraqis) that we withdraw in disarray.

Who wins the race? If this president remains in power, the likelihood is that we do.

Good analysis. And nothing would help the war effort more than for the leading Democrats to make strong and repeated statements about not abandoning Iraq. That would remove a major source of hope for the terrorists.

It probably won’t happen, though.