Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Worth It

To counter all the hand-wringing over US casualties in Iraq, I could stress that more Americans died in seventy-six hours on Tarawa Atoll than have died in Iraq all year. But I won't stress it, because those number games don't matter.

In Iraq as on Tarawa, we fight to win and pay such cost in lives as will secure victory.

On Tarawa victory was achieved within four days. In Iraq, from recent testimony to Congress, the Joint Chiefs estimate that Iraq's military will be strong enough to take charge of security around April 2005.

So the cost in American lives for Iraqi democracy may well pass the cost of a ring of coral in the South Pacific. It might even approach the cost of a blasted wood in France, although it must come cheaper than a volcanic island in the Sea of Japan. It's worth it.

Complaining about the death toll in Iraq is basically asking for the death toll to be spread out over a million square miles in a dozen countries and their surrounding coasts. Instead of roadside bombs near Fallujah, we'd have suicide boat attacks off of Dubai, and car bombs in Saudi Arabia, and snipers in Egypt, and grenade attacks in Lebanon. Truck bombs in East Africa. Surface-to-air rocket attacks in Pakistan. Mortar attacks in Kuwait. Vest-bombers in Turkey.

Because while 'war breeds terrorism' in that it fuels rage and despair, a cowardly peace works even better. It breeds contempt for a country that turns to talk and money to solve everything. Mockery of those who think commerce can be apolitical and secular. Ruthlessness towards adults who view religious faith as a character quirk to be tolerated.

Either way, there will be funerals with an honor guard and a folded flag presented to the next of kin. That will happen as often as the enemy wants it to happen--so long as we permit them to want it to happen.

It looks like the election will turn on the War on Terror. On one side are Americans who understand that our troops are fighting for a goal as noble, as necessary, as challenging, and as attainable, as the goals in both world wars. On the other are Americans who didn't think we should have gone in, and won't mind if we lose, no matter how close our victory or the cost in lives for the retreat.

To hell with them and anyone else who says "America can't" when they mean "I won't". 'I won't' yield America to them. I remember what they did to it the last time they won.

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