Today, the public debate in the United States revolves around one question: When are we leaving Iraq? The conventional wisdom has become that U.S. operations in Iraq are futile.
Due in large part to politically driven press coverage, Americans have received the impression that America cannot succeed in Iraq, and that consequently, their leaders ought to be concentrating their efforts on building an exit strategy.
When the media wonders if it can compare the battles in Iraq to the Tet offensive in Vietnam, what it really wants to know is if it has successfully convinced the American public that their military has lost the war in Iraq.
Over the past several weeks, President Bush has been waging a political offensive to convince the public that U.S. troops are winning the war in Iraq. Bush made four major points in appearances over the past week toward that end.
First, he explained that the United States is at war, and then went on to describe the nature of the war. Iran, he said, stands at the helm of enemy forces. Iran's senior role was made clear, he said, through its provocative sponsorship of this summer's Hezbollah and Palestinian violence against Israel. One of Iran's central goals — shared with Syria and its terrorist proxies — is to destroy the forces of moderation and democracy in the Middle East.
Secondly, Bush asserted that Iraq is a vital front in this war. In his view, the only way America can lose the war is if it leaves. Bush argued that if America leaves Iraq, Iraq will come to America, to Iraq's neighbors, and indeed, to the entire world.
Thirdly, Bush argued that America can only win the war if the public supports it. The only way to ensure the public's support is by showing that America is winning. Bush said that showing success is difficult because while its benchmarks for victory — political freedom, economic development and social progress — are amorphous, "the enemy gets to define victory by killing people."
Finally, the president argued that to defeat Iran, Syria and North Korea, the United States must have international support for its efforts. Countries like Russia, China and France must understand the dangers and agree to isolate these regimes with effective international sanctions.
While Bush clearly knows what he wants to do, he is hard-pressed to succeed. Not only are the Democrats and the media trying to undercut him every step of the way, members of his own administration — particularly, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her colleagues at the State Department — are subverting the president's agenda.
Rather than explain Iran's central role in the war, Rice courts the mullahs. Ignoring Iran's sponsorship of the Palestinians, Rice waxes poetic comparing the Palestinians — who chose Hamas to lead them — to America's founding fathers and the civil-rights movement.
Today, the only high-level U.S. diplomat who believes that the purpose of diplomacy is to advance America's national interests and not to achieve agreements for their own sake is the ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. Just this week, he effectively prevented Venezuela from being elected to the Security Council.
Rice does not support Bolton. According to Senate sources, she played a major role in preventing him from receiving Senate confirmation for his appointment. As a result, he will likely be forced to leave the post next month.
For Israel, the results of the American debate over the future of the war in Iraq are of critical importance. An American retreat will place Israel in grave danger. The country's eastern front (Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran), whose demise Israel's military "experts" were quick to announce in 2003 to justify slashing the defense budget, will make a comeback — replete with massive quantities of arms and tens of thousands of trained jihadi soldiers who will believe that they just won their jihad against the United States.
Moreover, if America retreats, the Israel Defense Force will find itself facing a U.S.-armed and trained Shi'ite army. And that means that if the United States withdraws, Israel could potentially find itself facing an enemy better trained and equipped than the IDF.
The leaders of the Democratic Party compete among themselves to see who can be more defeatist. If in the November elections the Democrats take control of both houses of Congress — or even just one of them — the push for retreat will grow stronger.
Caroline Glick is a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.