Democrat Cynicism Breeds Danger in a Postmodern War by Bryan Preston

I’ve been writing about postmodern warfare for about a year and a half now on the JYB. To put it as succinctly as I can, in postmodern warfare the illusion of defeat is as good as the real thing. Our first postmodern war was Vietnam, and during that war the press continually spun victories–during Operation Rolling Thunder, during Tet, Khe Sahn, the rest of the war–as defeats. Our troops never lost a single battle in the field, but the spin said otherwise and the spin had the highground in the airwaves and in the voices of America’s trusted newsmen. This spin not only bouyed the enemy and bucked him up to keep fighting, it depressed the homefront and finally drove stateside opposition to the war to reach majority status. Democracies cannot sustain wars that a majority of their citizens oppose for very long. We lost.

Iraq is a postmodern war. Our troops haven’t lost a single battle. They have conducted the war with steely resolve in the face of a vicious enemy that goes out of its way to commit heinous war crimes. But the press and the Democrats have spun Iraq as a defeat, and now a majority of Americans see it as a defeat into which the Bush administration lied.

The value of victory in Iraq was that it not only toppled a murderous dictator who wanted to rebuild his WMD programs and was allied to terrorists, but that it also intimidated Libya’s Muammar Ghadaffi into giving up his extensive WMD programs, without our having to invade Libya. He feared facing what his neighbor had faced, so he came clean and his nuclear program is sitting in Tennessee right now. On December 15 Iraq will complete the first part of its journey toward full democratic rule, in electing a constitutional government based on a body of laws its own people agreed to. That body of laws is enlightened by regional standards, and may become the model for other states in the region as Iraq’s example applies pressure to the despots who still dominate the Middle East. This is a clear and useful victory.

All of that being said, the illusion of defeat remains, and it is poison. The past few weeks we’ve seen the Democrats come out and attack the war as unwinnable. Calls for retreat have been tossed up and rejected in Congress. Calls for a withdrawal, for a timetable, for all kinds of gambits drafted to make the war look like a defeat now dominate the discussion in DC. Even while Iraq gets set to police itself, deal with the terrorists within and begin true sovereign home rule.

The Democrats know what they’re doing. They knew, as of November 6, that a drawdown of US forces in Iraq was coming by mid 2006. The Pentagon publicly announced the drawdown, but the press gave it little if any notice. So along come the Democrats to get out ahead of it and spin it as though it’s their plan–to drawdown the US military presence in Iraq as the Iraqis begin to stand up their own forces–by which they’re saving America from Bush. But this has been the plan since 2003. The Bush plan. We’re nearing the end game as the Bush administration envisioned it two years ago.

So what are the Democrats up to? They’re getting out ahead and trying to claim some credit, while at the same time trying to deny President Bush a clear victory in Iraq. It’s all about politics to them.

But it’s not all about politics to our enemies. Ghadaffi got the message in 2003, but the mullahs in Tehran and the madman in Pyongyang didn’t get that message and the fractious weakness that the Democrats are portraying will prevent them from getting the message any time soon. The demonstration effect of toppling Saddam is lost; the Iraq experience only demonstrates how easy it is to weaken a US administration in the middle of war.

Our allies are also getting that message–that we’re weak. Japan is one of our staunchest allies, and Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has been on board with the Bush approach to Iraq, China and North Korea for years. Yet he now sees us as unable to deal with real threats effectively.

Most Asian officials have expressed their views privately. Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has gone public, warning that the United States would lose any war with China.

“In any case, if tension between the United States and China heightens, if each side pulls the trigger, though it may not be stretched to nuclear weapons, and the wider hostilities expand, I believe America cannot win as it has a civic society that must adhere to the value of respecting lives,” Mr. Ishihara said in an address to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Mr. Ishihara said U.S. ground forces, with the exception of the Marines, are “extremely incompetent” and would be unable to stem a Chinese conventional attack. Indeed, he asserted that China would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons against Asian and American cities—even at the risk of a massive U.S. retaliation.

We’re going to win in Iraq, but the full benefit of that win is already lost to us. Our enemies are no longer intimidated, as they were in early 2003 after we had handily taken down two rogue states in 18 months’ time. Our allies are wary, and are planning ways to counter the threats they perceive in their own way. That may sound good, as though it gets us off the hook. But it doesn’t. It only means that the Pax Americana is probably over.

The perception of defeat that the Democrats have created from the win in Iraq has made the world a far, far more dangerous place for the next several decades.

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