We saw this movie before. In fact, I saw this movie last summer.
It goes like this: there is panic about Iraq, sagging Bush poll numbers, doubts about the direction of our Iraq policy and so on! In the end, Bush gets 51% of the popular vote, carries 31 states, adds 4 Senators and becomes the first president since FDR to gain seats in 3 consecutive elections.
Are the polls really that bad? What are the polls really saying?
I have never bet my life on polls. I don't dismiss them either but I don't live and die with them. I believe that presidents should govern from conviction and let the polls take care of themselves.
Indeed, there is concern about the war. Americans have always been concerned about war. We did not take polls back in the Civil War or other wars. However, Americans have always been weary of sending their sons to fight in wars. Nobody wants to send their son to die in a war. No one who lives in a free and prosperous country wants to send their son to a war.
Democracies go to war reluctantly. This is why it is better to have democracies in Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Democratically elected leaders can not afford to spend their time building nuclear weapons. Instead, they have to make sure that the traffic lights are working and the water is running. Unlike dictators, elected leaders get thrown out when they are not responding to their constituents' needs.
Back to the polls. Is the country going to turn on Bush? My answer is no.
I agree with David Brooks of The New York Times:
"I can't believe they want to abandon to the Zarqawis and the Baathists those 8.5 million Iraqis who held up purple fingers on Election Day. I can't believe they are yet ready to accept a terrorist-run state in the heart of the Middle East, a civil war in Iraq, the crushing of democratic hopes in places like Egypt and Iran, and the ruinous consequences for American power and prestige."
Wesley Pruden of The Washington Times comments on the polls:
"Gallup says 6 in 10 Americans polled think it's time to start bringing the troops home, which is no surprise because Americans, to the everlasting credit to the home of the brave, don't like war.
But large numbers of Americans also tell pollsters that they're not of a mind to cut and run, either. So go figure."
Richard Brookhiser of The New York Observer comments further on the polls:
"The situation in Iraq is not good. That's what the polls say. When The New York Times/CBS poll asked, "How are things going for the U.S. in its efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq?", 7 percent said very well, 33 percent said somewhat well, 34 percent said somewhat badly, and 26 percent said very badly.
I would have said somewhat well and somewhat badly, though that was not a choice."
My question is this: What are these polls really saying?
The American public is in no mood to cut and run from Iraq. Yet, Pres. Bush needs to raise the volume and make the case for the war again and again.
We did not have a choice between war and peace in '03.
I agree with Clinton adviser Sandy Berger who said "...Saddam's history of aggression, and his recent record of deception and defiance, leave no doubt that he would resume his drive for regional domination if he had the chance."
Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote one of the best articles on Iraq for The Washington Post on Sunday, June 19, 2005:
"It is entirely possible, in short, that if the Bush administration had not gone to war in 2003, the United States might have faced a more dangerous and daring Saddam Hussein later on and felt compelled to act.
So, in addition to whatever price might have been paid, certainly by the Iraqi people and possibly by Iraq's neighbors, for leaving Saddam in power, we might have wound up going to war anyway."
As I have said, it was now or later for the US vs Saddam. Sooner or later, Saddam would have confronted the US again.
The big political problem for Bush is that we have not found the WMDs.
If US troops had discovered a "nuclear warehouse" then Bush would have won the '04 election by 25 points. Additionally, John Kerry would have reminded all that he voted for the war because Saddam had WMDs and represented a threat to the world. Nancy Pelosi would have done the same thing.
The lack of WMDs has opened up a vulnerability for Bush. The anti-war left is exploiting it shamefully. It gives countries like France, who agreed that Saddam had WMDs, an opportunity to say that we should have waited for inspections.
Sorry. The inspections were not working. The sanctions regime was falling apart. Frankly, the UN had no serious interest in fixing the Iraq problem.
I am not ready to accept that Saddam did not have WMDs. I think that Richard Brookhiser is correct:
"We invaded Iraq because we thought Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. He certainly hoped to get them, sooner or later, and I believe we will not know until the Assad estate is probated how close he had come."
We thought that Saddam had WMDs and everyone else agreed with us. Have we forgotten what the 2002 UN Resolution said? Let me quote some excerpts:
"Recognizing the threat Iraq's noncompliance with council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security.....Deploring the fact that Iraq has not provided an accurate, full, final, and complete disclosure, as required by resolution 687 (1991).....Deploring further that Iraq repeatedly obstructed immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to sites designated by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), failed to cooperate fully and unconditionally with UNSCOM and IAEA weapons inspectors, as required by resolution 687 (1991), and ultimately ceased all cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA in 1998..... Deploring the absence, since December 1998, in Iraq of international monitoring, inspection, and verification, as required by relevant resolutions, of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, in spite of the council's repeated demands that Iraq provide immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission....Deploring also that the Government of Iraq has failed to comply with its commitments pursuant to resolution 687 (1991) with regard to terrorism....Recalling that in its resolution 687 (1991) the council declared that a ceasefire would be based on acceptance by Iraq of the provisions of that resolution....Decides that false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq.....that the council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations...."
Stick to the plan, Mr. President. You are right and your critics are wrong.