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Why We Fight

Rich Tucker

January 29, 2005

There’s nothing easier than predicting the past.

For example, after the Patriots win the Super Bowl next week -- even if they again win on a late field goal -- a billion viewers will listen to experts explain exactly why they won, and why it was sure to happen all along. As author Lee Simonson put it, “Any event, once it has occurred, can be made to appear inevitable by a competent historian.”

In much the same vein, Sen. Ted Kennedy and a few of his Democratic counterparts have perfect hindsight about our war in Iraq. “[Condoleezza] Rice was a key member of the national security team that developed and justified the rationale for war, and it’s been a catastrophic failure, a continuing quagmire,” Kennedy said during the recent “debate” over whether Rice should be confirmed as Secretary of State.

Well, first of all, there was no real debate in the Senate, just hours and hours of soliloquies. Senators including Kennedy, Barbara Boxer of California and Mark Dayton of Minnesota took the opportunity to attack Rice as unqualified, even, in Dayton’s case, as a “liar.”

It’s good, though, to see Sen. Dayton back at work. Last fall he closed his Capitol Hill office because of threats he said were contained in a “top-secret intelligence report” about national security.

“I would not bring my two sons to Capitol Hill between now and the elections,” Dayton told reporters. Luckily for those of us who trudge to work on the Hill every day, his prediction of impending disaster didn’t pan out. Other senators, by the way, stayed on the job.

Now let’s return to Sen. Kennedy and his “quagmire” comment. He’s on record: Iraq is a failure. That’s not completely wrong. After all, more than 1,300 Americans have been killed there. There’s no way to compensate those families for their loss. We’ve failed to bring every man back alive.

However, that’s not the proper measure of a war. If it was, we’d never deploy anyone anywhere. In fact, we wouldn’t have a military at all, since even when we’re not actively fighting, we lose servicemen in training accidents.

Perhaps the best definition of the American rationale for war came from President Harry Truman. “Let us not forget that we are fighting for peace and for the welfare of mankind,” he announced in July 1945. “We are not fighting for conquest. There is not one piece of territory or one thing of a monetary nature that we want out of this war. We want peace and prosperity for the world as a whole.”

That’s exactly why we’re fighting in Iraq today -- not to conquer land but to spread freedom and make the entire planet safer. Our enemies understand that, even if some of our senators don’t.

“The war in Iraq has become a war against the American occupation,” Kennedy claimed in a speech on Jan. 27. But that ignores something he noted later in the same speech: “The tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed last year included nearly a thousand members of the new Iraqi security forces, and a hundred more have been lost this year.” Kennedy’s own words explain that Iraqis are paying a higher price for their freedom than we are.

The insurgents realize that once democracy takes root in Iraq, they’ll be out of business. That’s why they did everything possible to prevent a vote. “We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology,” terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi announced last week. “Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it.”

Zarqawi is Jordanian, and his terrorists are far less popular in Iraq than Americans are. “Every day we get more and more tips from the Iraqi people, who are standing up and identifying these murderers and thugs,” Maj. Web Wright, a spokesman for the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division told The Washington Post. After the elections, Zarqawi will see his pool of supporters shrink even more.

It will be days, maybe even weeks, before we know exactly which candidates will sit in Iraq’s new National Assembly. But what’s happening this weekend is historic: Millions of Iraqis are braving terrorist threats and voting. Some polls estimate 80 percent of the population will go to the polls.

Things could still go horribly wrong in Iraq. It might collapse into anarchy, or a dictator might rise to power and rule for decades as Saddam Hussein did.

But the folks lined up to vote this weekend are specifically voting against such a future.

Americans are expanding freedom to the Middle East. So, to make a bold prediction: Future generations will be proud of our efforts in Iraq today, and will be safer for them.

Rich Tucker is manager of professional training in the Center For Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, a Townhall.com member group.


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