Friday, December 01, 2006

I honestly don't know what's going on with the war in Iraq

How should I know? I've never been there, I've never spoken to anyone who has, and I don't know how wars should be fought. I only know what I'm told in the media.

Whenever I pick up a newspaper or magazine, I encounter an entrenched belief that the war is going badly. Television nightly shows us people blowing themselves and others up. Left wing or right wing, nearly all the pundits are discouraging. Even most bloggers seem to think the war is a disaster. The drumbeat goes on, people never hear about anything good happening in Iraq, and we are encouraged to believe that the war is going very, very badly.

Then, on occasion, you read about good developments in Iraq: schools being built, towns which are tranquil, the Kurdish area's functioning government, marshes being restored so people can make a living from them.

Are all these people writing about the same place? The same war? The same universe, even?

I think the reason people are so pessimistic is that, until recently, no-one from the administration made the case for this war. Bush appeared to think he was an administrator, not a leader. Maybe they taught him in Harvard Business School that the art of managing consists of sitting at your desk, emptying your in-box into your out-box.

Bush should have gotten out in front of the American people and try some leadership. If he had used the bully pulpit and persuaded the electorate of the necessity for this war, things might have developed quite differently. But he allowed the Democrats to set the national agenda, and whoever sets the agenda wins the argument.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was able to persuade the people of the necessity of World War II. Do you think the electorate were sheep? They were not. There were many who were strongly opposed to our participation. Famous people, like Charles Lindbergh, spoke out against it. But FDR was able to persuade the people to get behind the war, to allow their sons to be drafted, to put up with rationing, to allow Japanese-Americans to be confined, and to buy war bonds. People, enough of them anyway, trusted him. That is leadership.

We could use some of that now.

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