Right On Track?




Two years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, with all hell breaking loose in Iraq, Osama bin Laden| still at large, and Al Qaeda apparently planning some major attacks, conservatives still insist on looking on the bright side.

Conservatives bash left-leaners as unpatriotic. (After all, September 11 is | “Patriot Day.”) Lawerence Kaplan of the Wall Street Journal unfavorably compares people who show a “willingness to do something” about terrorism with “September 10 Americans,” who, apparently, have forgotten that 3,000 people died when terrorists rammed planes into the WTC and “do not see [the attacks as] the opening salvo of a years-long struggle, much less [the] implications for politics and policy.” That means you, minorities and liberals:

“Evangelical Christians, whites, residents of rural areas, southerners, and self-described conservatives evince more concern about the response to September 11 than do secular Americans, African Americans, residents of cities, non-southerners, or self-described liberals.”

Kaplan says Republicans are the only Americans who have shown a resolve to combat terror. Conservative Chuck Colson calls for a unified, Pro-Bush stance :

“Well, letÕs remember: Divisive criticism and any sign of turning away now can only fan the flames of Islamist fanaticism and terror.”

(Did we mention that September 11 is”| Patriot Day“?)

Because that’s what democracy is all about, right? Everybody agree! Colson goes on to explain that “anti-war rhetoric” needs an antidote of resolve — lest we “risk our national survival.”

The war on terror has gone “gone much better” than anyone would have expected,” writes Amir Tehri for the National Review. Iraq’s regime (we’re still not sure what that has to do with terrorism on American soil) “collapsed like a pack of cards largely because the Iraqi people welcomed their liberation.”

Maybe so, but they seem no less eager now to be liberated from us.

And what about AQ? Bin Laden, reports Tehri, has been confirmed dead by family members, which would mean we don’t need to spend any more time hunting him down. But wait a minute, who’s the tall, gangly, bearded guy in the | video?

“OBL is the only one of the seven top leaders of the al Qaeda not to be fully accounted for. The organization’s number-two, the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, is almost certainly hiding in Iran.”

Andrew Sullivan, commends the U.S. for its gumption to “go on the offensive, tackle this nightmare at its roots, get our hands dirty, risk failure and aim for real success.” The “astonishingly humane wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq, he says, are “just the beginning of a long attempt to bring the Middle East out of the dark ages.”

But this, too from Sullivan, stating what many conservatives think but are afraid to say:

“Maybe the truth is that the Taliban are resurgent, due, in part, to our poor follow-through in Afghanistan, but it is just as true that those soldiers who are there are doing a great job, given their limited numbers and resources. Which is why we need more resources for rebuilding Afghanistan and more troops to police it. C’mon, Dubya. Follow-through; follow-through. Some of us are worried not because we want you to fail, but because we want you to succeed.”

But how to follow through? Conservatives are divided on this. David Brooks, debuting as a columnist for the New York Times is in favor of increased spending:

“The truly important initiatives Bush launched were, first, to sharply increase the level of spending on Iraq, and therefore increase the likelihood that major infrastructure problems will be addressed. With this, Bush is not only taking on the antiwar Democrats, but also the so far silent but oh-so-sullen fiscal conservatives in his own party.”

Brooks also lauds Bush for attempting to “internationalize” the Iraq war:

“By the time the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was bombed on Aug. 19, President Bush was willing to strike out on a new course. It was in a phone call that day with Condoleezza Rice, a close Bush adviser reports, that Bush observed that the tragedy of the bombing might be turned into an opportunity to internationalize the rebuilding effort. Colin Powell was dispatched to talk with Kofi Annan about a resolution authorizing a greater U.N. role. Annan was receptive.”

But William Kristol and Robert Kagan at the Weekly Standard are angry at Bush’s recourse to the U.N, calling the idea that the U.S. could use the help from other nations an “ illusion.” Even though “our military is smaller than it should be,” they write, its high time we get more American troops to Iraq to show the “poor Iraqi people” what democracy looks like:

“[T]he administration’s new push for U.N. backing is not a victory for the multilateralist spirit Powell allegedly harbors. It is a simple matter of an unwillingness by America’s leaders to shoulder the necessary military burden. Though it is true that our military is smaller than it should be, there are troops available for Iraq, if we are willing to call on combat elements from the Marines, the National Guard, and Special Forces.

“[T]here is a real question whether non-American forces, and particularly Muslim forces from Turkey and Pakistan, will make the situation in Iraq better or worse. This week the newly appointed Iraqi foreign minister said he was not happy about the idea of Turkish troops in Iraq.

It is an illusion to imagine that this mess can be handed off to someone else and we can go on about our business. That option does not exist. The choices are stark: Either the United States does what it takes to succeed in Iraq, or we lose in Iraq. And if we lose, we will leave behind us not blue helmets but radicalism and chaos, a haven for terrorists, and a perception of American weakness and lack of resolve in the Middle East and reckless blundering around the world.”

Both the Times and the Standard’s pieces express relief that the Bush administration is finally admitting some errors. Kristol and Kagan write:

“At least the administration has begun dropping the pretense that everything is under control in Iraq and that the civilian authority has the resources and the field commanders the troops that they need.”

Brooks puts it more bluntly:

“The essential news is that Bush will do whatever it takes to prevail, and senior members of his administration are capable of looking honestly at their mistakes. You will just never be able to get any of them to admit publicly they’ve ever made any.”

Even liberals can agree on that last bit.