by Rod D. Martin
November 29, 2006

Arnaud de Borchgrave’s too-pessimistic assessment of the situation in Iraq today suggests that increasing troop strength in Iraq would necessitate Charlie Rangel’s draft (which he ironically states would be killed by the Democrat Congress, as if Republicans never — much less routinely — voted down Rangel’s bill in years past).  This is just wrong.  But perhaps more to the point, the Administration is wrong not to do it, and here’s why.

The President is exactly right, militarily speaking, to follow his generals’ advice, and that advice calls for current troop strength.  The last thing we need is a President picking bombing targets on an Oval Office map ala LBJ.  Nevertheless, the White House has obviously been tone-deaf regarding the fact that this war — like Vietnam — is being mostly decided at home.  Military victory isn’t worth much in a democracy if the folks back home don’t believe it’s happening.

And of course, that victory is a shifting thing anyway, much as real life always is.  The defeat of Saddam’s regime was absolute, total, and fast.  The mopping-up operation against insurgents has now taken fewer years than it took in Germany after World War II, but more years than the all-negative-all-the-time media of today can bear.  The U.S. death rate is still half that of U.S. training deaths over the past three and a half decades, but no one knows or understands this.  And the whole thing has been greatly complicated by the thousands of outsiders who have poured into the country under the banner of al Qaeda (why anyone would ever want to leave Iraq to al Qaeda defies imagination).

Hence, we need to send more troops.  Not because we need them militarily (although I’m sure we could find plenty for them to do), but because we need to make clear — to our enemies and our public — that we’re not leaving, and that we’re going to see this through to victory.  Without that certainty, former supporters at home despair and current enemies abroad are emboldened.  Kissinger is wrong, as he was in 1973:  this war can be won; and Kissinger’s prescriptions are no better today than then.  And for every Democrat who has called for withdrawal, there’s a Democrat who’s criticized the President for not sending more troops:  this move could fracture their caucus and buy enough time to finish the job.

I made these points on our weekly White House leadership call this Monday.  I have thought carefully about making them public.  But it’s time.  The President is doing a fine job as Commander-in-Chief.  We must not let him undermine that by failing as Chief Communicator.