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May 14, 2004
VDH: Taking Our Eyes Off The Ball

Victor David Hanson writes another brilliant essay for National Review Online, reminding us why we went to war in the first place, and how some people are allowing themselves to be distracted from the stakes. In particular, Hanson focuses on the silly and hysterical calls for the resignations of Donald Rumsfeld and now Richard Myers, the two men who put together perhaps the most efficient and successful major war plans ever into operation, liberating 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq from two of the worst tyrannies in recent memory (via Hugh Hewitt and Memeorandum):

The idea that anyone would suggest that Donald Rumsfeld and now Richard Meyers! should step down, in the midst of a global war, for the excesses and criminality of a handful of miscreant guards and their lax immediate superiors in the cauldron of Iraq is absurd and depressing all at once.

What would we think now if George Marshall had been forced out on news that 3,000 miles away George S. Patton's men had shot some Italian prisoners, or Gen. Hodges's soldiers summarily executed German commandoes out of uniform, or drivers of the Red Ball express had raped French women? Should Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell have been relieved from his command for the February 12-13, 1991, nocturnal bombing of the Al Firdos compound in Baghdad, in which hundreds of women and children of Baathist loyalists were tragically incinerated and pictures of their corpses broadcast around the world, prompting the United States to cease all further pre-planned and approved attacks on the elite in Saddam's bunkers throughout Baghdad? Of course not.

I made essentially the same point earlier this week with a narrower breadth, referring to Patton's slapping of two soldiers in 1943. That action violated a long-standing American tradition of respect for enlisted men, and regardless of Patton's motivations, his actions were deplorable. Many called for Patton's scalp for this transgression, but Eisenhower, George Marshall, and FDR refused to fire him. Should any of these been forced to resign in the middle of the war for what their underling did -- twice? Of course not -- the notion is absurd, and that action took place a lot closer up the chain of command than did the Abu Ghraib abuses.

Resignations have never been demanded because of policy differences -- policy differences are addressed at the election. Malfeasance or gross incompetence are the only valid reasons for demanding a resignation from a Cabinet member, and in a time of war, any qualifying event had better clearly have that person's fingerprints on it. No one has remotely connected Rumsfeld or Myers (who isn't even in the chain of command for Abu Ghraib, as a National Security advisor) to prisoner abuses, but we have seen that the military made the investigation public, completed it promptly, and has proceeded to try the suspects expeditiously.

Besides, many of the same people calling for Rumsfeld's hide had a much different threshold for resignations in the last administration, and the malfeasance took place a lot higher up the chain than this did.

The call for resignations just underscores the lack of seriousness from the opposition, as Hanson argues:

Very liberal people in Washington are calling for heads to roll in lieu of court proceedings and cross-examinations. Much of the angst that sent senators to the capitol steps microphones derives from their own surprise and the sensationalism of the pictures images that put these media-savvy legislators first to shame, then to the recognition that this is an election year in which bottled piety is at a premium. They know that there is little to be gained from reminding Americans that there are now thousands of brave soldiers fighting horrific enemies in a professional and highly successful manner. The last one to damn the fewest receives the least air time. In this context, the behavior of Senator Kennedy the last few months is the real metaphor of our times. ...

One final jarring scene from the televised spectacles was the image of the lone, beleaguered Joe Lieberman calling for patience and sobriety, and worried about our troops in the field and the pulse of the war. This decent and honest man reminds us of what the present party of Ted Kennedy and Terry McAuliff used to be. The confidence of a Truman, JFK, and Scoop Jackson caricatured now for dropping the bomb, a fiery "pay-any-price" speech, and heating up the Cold War is now nowhere to be found.

This is a vital point, because either this year or sometime in the next decade a Democratic administration may well take the reins of power and in matters of national security it will be far to the left of the Liebermans of the world. And the disturbing events that we saw in the 1990s constant appeasement of Middle East terrorists and their national sponsors, the emergence of a nuclear Pakistan and North Korea, sudden withdrawal from messy places like Mogadishu, a jetting special envoy Jimmy Carter will return, though made worse through the prism of the present fury over Iraq.

Read the entire essay. It's a terrific encapsulation of what we have experienced in the past three years and a concise argument for pursuing our current policies in the Middle East. On the other hand, Max Sawicky from MaxSpeak considers the following Instapundit lead-in to this essay "McCarthyite crappola" and "fascist rhetoric" -- in fact, he insists that we "make no mistake" about its nature:

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON is talking sense. "We are doing to ourselves what the enemy could not."

Well, some people are trying to do that to us, anyway.

When I refer to the hysteria on the left, this is exactly what I mean. Any disagreement about policy automatically becomes "fascist" and any criticism "McCarthyite". When you read Hanson's piece, ask yourself why defending the US is "fascist" and why disagreeing with the Left is "McCarthyite".

Are these the people we want in charge of national security?

UPDATE: On the other other hand, here's Joe Lieberman making nothing but sense in today's OpinionJournal:

Most Democrats and Republicans, including President Bush and Sen. Kerry, agree that we must successfully finish what we have started in Iraq. Now is the time for all who share that goal to make our agreement publicly clear, to stress what unites us. Many argue that we can only rectify the wrongs done in the Iraqi prisons if Donald Rumsfeld resigns. I disagree. Unless there is clear evidence connecting him to the wrongdoing, it is neither sensible nor fair to force the resignation of the secretary of defense, who clearly retains the confidence of the commander in chief, in the midst of a war. I have yet to see such evidence. Secretary Rumsfeld's removal would delight foreign and domestic opponents of America's presence in Iraq.

But, as we are showing in our response to Abu Ghraib, we are a nation of laws, and therefore must punish only those who are proven guilty.

Not for the first (nor I suspect the last) time, I wish Democrats had demonstrated some seriousness and nominated Joe Lieberman for President. Not only would we have secured our nation's foreign policy and focus on victory in the war, but we could have had an honest debate on domestic issues. Perhaps my candidate would lose that contest, but in the end, my country would have been better off with that campaign than the one we have now.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 14, 2004 12:40 PM

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