By: Brian Sikma
“Mr. President, the terrorist are in this war to win it. The question is: Are we?” –Sen. John McCain
Conservatives have few things to thank Sen. John McCain for. McCain, a Republican maverick with a taste for compromise, does have courage though. As the architect of the Gang of 14 deal that denied conservative judicial appointees an up or down vote on the Senate floor, as a leader with Ted Kennedy for immigration reform that would have been a debacle if it had passed, and as someone who voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, McCain has often appeared to be bent on doing whatever riles up conservatives. However, on the subject of the Iraq War, Sen. John McCain has it right.
Yesterday and through the night last night the Senate debate focused around an amendment that was not about whether or not we should win in Iraq, but about what route we should choose lose by. By some measures, this debate was highly unbecoming of the Senate. The members of the United States Senate are supposed to lead the country-not follow public opinion polls.
As leaders, senators should have risen to the challenge and forcefully sent our enemies a message: “We will not abandon the field in Iraq. We are going to fight until victory and we were not elected to vote on which road to defeat we will take the United States down.” Unfortunately, no such unanimous message was issued.
Senator McCain though courageously took to the floor of the Senate and delivered a strongly worded message that talked about the progress we’re seeing in Iraq and about the stakes involved in our decision to either stay the course or admit defeat to the terrorists. (You can read the full text here.) Here is a key quote from the Senator’s speech:
“If we leave Iraq prematurely, jihadists around the world will interpret the withdrawal as their great victory against our great power. Their movement thrives in an atmosphere of perceived victory; we saw this in the surge of men and money flowing to al Qaeda following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. If they defeat the United States in Iraq, they will believe that anything is possible, that history is on their side, that they really can bring their terrible rule to lands the world over. Recall the plan laid out in a letter from Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, before his death. That plan is to take shape in four stages: establish a caliphate in Iraq, extend the “jihad wave” to the secular countries neighboring Iraq, clash with Israel – none of which shall commence until the completion of stage one: expel the Americans from Iraq. Mr. President, the terrorists are in this war to win it. The question is: Are we?”
Senator McCain asked the right question. Sen. Reid, Sen. Durbin, and their fellow Democratic colleagues should be thinking very hard about their response to that question. Although Sen. Lugar claims we should think outside of “binary choices”, I’d like to know what third route there is. There isn’t one in this conflict. The choice is a very simple, binary choice: We Win or They Win.
If Senators wish to get their name in front of a TV camera, they should go before the American people and explain exactly what is going on in Iraq. Explain that although there will continue to be bloodshed, we are going to follow the lead of the President and vote for the funds needed by our military. Our military offensive is succeeding. The Anbar province has been cleared of many terrorists and local leaders are now supporting the allied U.S. and Iraqi forces.
In the past mistakes have been made in the conduct of the war. But the way to correct that is to devise a new strategy; not unilaterally draw down and “redeploy.” Were our enemies in Iraq to succeed in expelling us from that country, they would not hesitate to launch an intiative to attack either our homeland or our citizens and military personnel abroad.