A surge of war sup­port

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

With pos­i­tive mil­i­tary news con­tin­u­ing from Iraq, Pres­i­dent Bush on Aug. 22 seized the mo­ment. In a speech to the na­tional con­ven­tion of the Vet­er­ans of For­eign Wars in Kansas City, Mr. Bush re­called the naysay­ers of the pre­vi­ous cen­tury who ques­tioned Ja­pan’s suit­abil­ity for democ­racy. He re­called oth­ers who re­garded the set­backs in the fight against Com­mu­nist ag­gres­sion in Korea as ev­i­dence that that the war was a blun­der. The first dis­senters were wrong. The sec­ond were my­opic.

“In the af­ter­math of Ja­pan’s sur­ren­der, many thought it naive to help the Ja­panese trans­form them­selves into a democ­racy,” the pres­i­dent told the old sol­diers, some of them vet­er­ans of those for­eign wars. “Then as now, the crit­ics ar­gued that some peo­ple were sim­ply not fit for free­dom [. . .] Crit­ics also com­plained when Amer­ica in­ter­vened to save South Korea from Com­mu­nist in­va­sion. Then as now, crit­ics ar­gued that the war was fu­tile, that we never should have sent our troops in, or that Amer­ica”s in­ter­ven­tion was di­vi­sive here at home. Many of th­ese crit­i­cisms were of­fered as rea­sons for aban­don­ing our com­mit­ments in Korea. While it is true that the Korean War had its share of chal­lenges, Amer­ica never broke its word. To­day, we see the re­sult in the stark con­trast of life on the Korean Penin­sula.”

To sup­port­ers of the ef­fort in Iraq, the par- al­lels are clear enough. Then as now, war is ide­o­log­i­cal. Then as now, war tests the Amer­i­can com­mit­ment to far-off peo­ples, with Amer­i­can cred­i­bil­ity weigh­ing in the bal­ance. Then as now, the en­emy makes clear that its sights are trained squarely on us.

For op­po­nents of the war, it will be dif­fi­cult to agree. It is none­the­less use­ful for the pub­lic to be re­minded that ours is not the first gen­er­a­tion to have doubts about our coun­try’s war poli­cies. And, while his­tory does not sim­ply re­peat it­self, it is worth know­ing that in the past, war doubts proved un­jus­ti­fied.

Many who op­pose the war now see progress in Iraq af­ter the “surge” of new troops. Sens. Carl Levin and Hil­lary Clin- ton have lent their voices to that cho­rus, and this poses dif­fi­cult ques­tions for their friends on the left. “We’ve be­gun to change tac­tics in Iraq, and in some ar­eas, par­tic­u­larly in An­bar prov­ince, it’s work­ing,” Mrs. Clin­ton said.

Just about ev­ery­one to­day ap­plauds the for­eign-pol­icy goals and ideals that un­der­girded the com­mit­ment to Ja­pan and Korea more than a half-cen­tury ago. If the good news of the surge con­tin­ues from Iraq, the pres­i­dent’s crit­ics will no doubt ask why he didn’t send enough troops in the first place. It’s a fair ques­tion. But if the good news con­tin­ues there won’t be a log­i­cal ba­sis to con­tinue the clamor for with­drawal.

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