Strategic vision

Jim Robbins:

The setting for Monday night's presidential address was symbolic, and intentionally so. Given the topic, the five-point plan for the full transfer of sovereignty in Iraq, the venue could have been the State Department, the U.N., or the International Peace Academy. But the president chose the Army War College, an institution whose mission is "to prepare selected military, civilian, and international leaders for the responsibilities of strategic leadership." The strategic purpose of the war in Iraq frequently gets lost in the ad hoc, reactive, media-driven public debate. The strategic focus is the opposite of the body-count fixation of the radical Left, and the antidote to the myopic criticism of those who oppose the conduct of the war but have no realistic alternatives to offer. However, given the importance of the impending transfer of power, it was necessary to return to first principles. The president lifted the discussion to the level of strategy in order to create clarity.


There was an evocative line near the beginning of the speech, when President Bush drew a contrast between the competing visions: The terrorists "can incite men to murder and suicide, but they cannot inspire men to live, and hope." This encapsulates the root distinction between our side and enemies of freedom in clear, objective terms. Death is their way of life. This is a contradiction; it cannot endure. We promote life, in all its complexity, diversity, and potential. Imagine a positive outcome — not even the best case, just a very good one — a free, democratic Iraq; a strategic ally; a market for goods and a source for resources; an inspiration to others in the region who will see freedom and prosperity and wonder why their leaders deny it to them. This may be difficult to achieve but it is by no means impossible. It is much better than the alternative. It would be wonderful if we had no challenges, yet as the president said, "this is the world as we find it." Fortunately, we do not have to accept the world as it is.

A speech at the War College reminds us of how ignorant the President's critics are of what is taught there. Military history is a stranger to most of them.


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