Substitutes for victory?
When Gen. Douglas MacArthur delivered his farewell address to Congress in April of 1951 after President Truman had fired the general during the Korean War, he gave advice that yet can be of value both to President Bush's Democratic Party war critics and to Mr. Bush and his generals: "[In war], there is no alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war there is no substitute for victory."I would say that the Democrats are desperate for defeat of the US in Iraq to justify their disasterous national security positions. There eagerness for retreat is not because we are losing but because we are winning and when we win that spells political disaster for their favored policies. With a few exceptions Democrat leaders have not even expressed a desire to win in Iraq. Outside of Joe Leiberman it is hard to name anyone in that party that even wants to win.
At the time, Gen. MacArthur was criticizing Truman's decision not to seek victory in what was technically called a U.N. "police action" in Korea.
While playing "what if" games with history is destined to be mere speculation, it is worth noting that if victory had been gained over North Korea in the early 1950s, we probably would not be facing a nuclear stand off with North Korea in 2006. Of course, we will never know what price we would have paid in blood and lost life for such a victory back then. And unless and until the nuclear day with North Korea (or the terrorists it sells its nukes to) comes, we will not know the price of not gaining victory in the 1950s. The river of historical consequence runs deep and long.
Today, we are faced with another so-far inconclusive war effort, this time in Iraq. On Monday, Mr. Bush continued to articulate the MacArthurian objective in the following language regarding troop levels: "That decision will be made by General Casey, as well as the sovereign government of Iraq, based upon conditions on the ground. And one of the things that General Casey assured me of is that, whatever recommendation he makes, it will be aimed toward achieving victory. And that's what we want."
Mr. Bush should read and re-read Gen. MacArthur's first two sentences: "apply every available means to bring [war] to a swift end. War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision." If Mr. Bush should read those first two sentences, his Democratic Party war critics should read the third sentence: "There is no substitute for victory."
With some honorable exceptions, most congressional Democrats are not seized with the will to victory. Rather, as I observed on television last weekend, the "timetable" Democrats sound like the bladder-control advertisement on TV: "Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go." That is an urge, not a policy. And it is an ignoble urge at that. Even if it is sincerely held (and not merely a search for a partisan advantage), it is a disqualifying instinct for an American political party.