Elections have consequences. And for our recent election, the consequences have been a major setback in the war on terror and a greater threat to terrorist attack at home. This is so because a public with an attention deficit disorder has elected a liberal congress that wants pull the plug on Iraq at the first face-saving chance they get.
Many people draw comparisons between the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam. Since the election I've had the nagging feeling we are in about the 1973 phase of the Vietnam War. That year the power shift in Washington away from a conservative president toward a liberal congress doomed the war effort and in effect condemned millions of our Vietnamese allies to death and reeducation camps. A similar scenario may now be unfolding regarding Iraq.
The effort to preserve our interests in the region just got a lot more difficult as antiwar Democrats take over Congress backed by a sympathetic press. Together they have convinced the public that Iraq is a costly misstep, and Republicans have failed to convince them otherwise.
Much of President Bush's strategy has been based on Natan Sharansky's book, The Case for Democracy. In it, Sharansky stresses that freedom abroad and security at home are linked, and that there can be no peace without democracy. His book has become the basis of the post-9/11 strategic thinking.
Sharansky says that countries that do not protect the right of dissent, and other human rights, can never be reliable partners in peace. Democracies do not attack other democracies because they rely on the popular backing of their people, and most people go to war only when absolutely necessary.
Theoretically, the freedom that democracy offered in Iraq would be infectious to people in surrounding countries, and thereby would strengthen the U.S. position in the entire region.
That's a lot of theory. Reality, on the other hand, has played out a bit differently.
While the U.S. military has performed heroically, the insurgency has not been contained. And without a greater commitment than we are willing to give, we cannot keep the Iraqis from fighting each other. A growing number of critics have concluded the Middle East overall, and Iraq specifically, are not ready for democracy. A new strategy may be now necessary.
Though many people here may be worn-out on the war, our enemies are not. And because of our war-weariness, we have handed our Congress over to those who care least about our security. The last thing we need to do at this time is to show a lack of resolve, but that is exactly what we have done.
So, we now face a stark choice. We can either maintain our efforts in Iraq, or we can withdraw.
Like Vietnam, our enemies view us as not having the stomach to fight a protracted war. If we withdraw, however, the credibility of the U.S., our military, and our assurances will be lost for years, probably decades.
The Iraqis are watching all this, and they can see which way the wind is blowing. They know if we leave, either the Sunni insurgency or the Iranians will likely come in, and their newly gained freedoms will be lost. This reality shapes the thoughts and actions of all Iraqi officials, from Prime Minister Maliki, down to the police officers on the street.
And like it or not, our position in Iraq is also tied to Iran. It's quite clear Iran wants a nuke, a strong influence among Iraqi Shiites, and with Hezbollah. Because of our wavering, our ability to deal with them just got a lot more difficult as well. Perhaps "staying the course" was not such a bad idea.
Many Americans are in denial about the threat from radical Islam. Unfortunately, it may take another 9/11 before they wake up. God help us if one of our cities gets nuked when that happens.
American efforts to establish a western-style democracy in Iraq have been noble. We must now face reality, however, and do whatever it takes to secure a stable, and perhaps not-so-democratic government in Baghdad, that is friendly toward the United States. Marshal law and other harsh measures may be necessary. We cannot afford to let them fail.
Jeff Lukens is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit (501c3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets. He can be contacted through his website.