A short voters guide to the Iraq War

I’ve always liked the “for Dummies” publishing concept since, let’s face it, at one time or another we all need to have an issue made simple for us. It seems that the Iraq War is one of those issues – thanks in great part to the Democrats and the “old media.”

Far from “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time,” George W. Bush’s decision to go into Iraq was positively brilliant. To help voters to understand the president’s bold and historic decision on the Iraq War, consider what he faced in 2002.

First, remember the basics, Iraq was a nation ruled by a vicious, megalomaniacal dictator who had already used weapons of mass destruction, who had many reasons to hate America with a passion, and who also controlled one of the largest oil reserves in this oil-starved world, giving him the political leverage and the financial clout necessary to develop new WMDs. In other words, sooner or later, Saddam would make WMDs, and he was absolutely mad enough to use them – especially if he could avoid retaliation by employing terrorists for the attack.

Second, think of Syria, Iraq and Iran as a big chain – three enemy nations linked territorially, spreading across the middle of the Middle East from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

Imagine the significance of these three linked nations: all of them hostile to the United States, and all of them in one way or another giving aid and comfort to terrorists of different stripes. The center link of this dangerous chain was Iraq, and it was this link that President Bush smashed in the spring of 2003.

The Middle East changed nearly overnight.

The fall of Saddam’s Iraq had the effect of immediately isolating the two other terror states, Syria and Iran, and totally undermining their sense of security. Already Syria is showing signs of buckling under this pressure. Iran, the terror capital of the world, is under a magnifying glass (and undoubtedly worrying about four more years of Bush).

It’s amazing to think that only two years ago this “terror chain” of nations felt safe in the knowledge that American armies were far, far away. Whereas now just across the border lies a fully modern military force of well over 100,000 men – backed by the same ground, air, and sea-based arsenal that had overwhelmed Afghanistan in months, and Iraq in weeks.

Gone now is the Syria-Iraq-Iran “terror chain,” and gone is the security these terror states had previously enjoyed. Gone also is their pretence to legitimacy and power, because now as President Bush says, “freedom is on the march” – and because the biggest bully of them all is in prison. And so might they be soon. It’s hard to rattle your saber with a knife at your throat.

However, understanding the Iraq War is only the beginning of understanding Bush’s remarkable leadership in both recognizing the danger of 9-11 and acting forcefully.

The essential threat

To understand President Bush’s success as commander in chief in 2003 and 2004, we need only consider the situation we faced not long before. America was confronted by a military threat, never seen before in history. Sept. 11, 2001, didn’t begin this threat; it simply forced the American people to confront the full-blown reality of it (at least, those of us who were willing to do so).

An enemy attempted to decapitate our democratic republic. (Just imagine if the terrorists had succeeded in their plan to destroy our Capitol building – not to mention other buildings had they gone ahead with their larger plans.) In this moment of history, our leadership needed to face not only the direct threat of al-Qaida but also the larger implications of 9-11: This was an act of war, but the terrorists themselves were only part of the larger strategic picture.

History will show that one American political party had the courage to see this threat. The other major party ultimately didn’t. One party acted consistently, and the other vacillated. Luckily for America, the party in power is the one that understood why the Iraq War is the epicenter of the War on Terror.

Take a look at the big picture. There are three essential ingredients that make up this historic threat (which truly may define your future):

1. The reality of terror nations, those who would do us harm if they could and who cooperate with terrorists

2. The existence of weapons of mass destruction, which terror nations can purchase or develop over time

3. And the reality of a global terrorist network, capable of acting as an untraceable WMD “delivery system” for these terror states.

When President Bush warns us that we cannot afford any kind of “catastrophic” terror attack on the United States he is trying to help us understand the nature of this new war.

It can never be just a “nuisance,” as Kerry implied, because all it takes is one hostile terror state, one small band of terrorists, and one deployable weapon of mass destruction. That’s enough for disaster to strike. America could lose a city, and hundreds of thousands – even millions – of its citizens. That kind of mass death would be unthinkable – yet George W. Bush faced exactly this possibility on Sept. 12, 2001.

This more than any other issue will define the world in which we will all grow old. If you are not afraid, you are not paying attention. And yet, the bold offensive President Bush has undertaken is also our best hope to help the Middle East choose freedom over radicalism, and end the reign of terrorism, which has thrived for decades in that region.

Just as Reagan confronted the Soviet Union, it was essential for Bush to end the era of “terror states.” They had to be destroyed (Iraq) or disarmed (Libya), but even that was not enough. Weeds need to be pulled out by the root. An alternative had to be offered, or terror states would spring back over time. Liberty had to be established to supplant terror, both in the streets and in the capitals of the Middle East. Let the people freely decide.

If it’s a “long shot,” then it’s a world-shaking long shot – and deserves the full, unified support of the American people.

Remember, this is a political war as well as a military one – on our side as well as theirs. As I said in a previous commentary, the terrorists cannot beat our military so they must beat our people psychologically. Conversely, we must fight politically as well; we cannot stop every terrorist malcontent but we can offer a greater dream to the people of terror nations. And this dream was desperately needed by the dawning of the 21st century.

In fact, the moderates of the Middle East, having been intimidated into silence by radical Islamists, needed a two-fold boost. They needed to be the emissaries of a “better way of life” than the radicals offered, and most importantly, they needed to be stronger. In other words, they needed a powerful force behind them, one more intimidating than the masked Islamist intimidators. Without a confident force behind them how could they hope to win out over terrorism?

The people of Iraq (and the rest of the Middle East) had to know that there was now a genuine alternative to the terrorist/terror-state network and its endless cycle of anger and violence. They needed a radical shift in the balance of power. They needed to see the bully himself get bullied by a force that could not only strike hard, but could take continual hits and come back – and continually come back – to destroy the Islamist enemy by day or by night, city by city, block by block

Muslim moderates (freedom fighters, really) needed to see true grit from us, because that would mean there was real hope for the future.

But then, for Americans to stand fast in winning this war in Iraq, we have to be unified here at home. This may not happen, but if we lose this war, you’ll never hear the real reason from the “old media.” It won’t be George W. Bush. It won’t be the missing WMD, or “insufficient” troop numbers. Nor will it be that we couldn’t stop the violence in the Sunni Triangle. It won’t be because Iraqis won’t fight for freedom, or because al-Qaida was too strong. And for sure it won’t be America’s fighting forces that are the problem.

If you are wondering what it will be that defeats us, just read up on Vietnam. Every decade we declare the Vietnam Syndrome is dead. But that defeatist attitude won’t ever leave us until we recognize the appeasers among us for what they are. We could have been unified in this fight, but we are not.

Shame on the Kerry Democrats who have been undermining the war effort with their constant, politically motivated criticism!

On the other hand, if George Bush wins this election, perhaps freedom will indeed be established in Iraq, and maybe – just maybe – the Democratic Party will apologize for dividing the country when we most needed unity – and for almost losing the war.

But don’t hold your breath.