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Friday, September 15, 2006

Ned Lamont and Iraq

Ned Lamont’s victory in last month’s Democratic Primary is only the most recent success for the growing anti-war faction. This coalition’s only real common bond seems to be an intrinsic and complete loathing of President Bush and those associated with him. Unfortunately, this hatred has focused itself on an unlikely victim, Senator Joseph Lieberman, who was defeated by Lamont in the Democratic Primary last August. While Senator Lieberman is running on an independent ticket in November and will probably be reelected, Lamont’s victory is a disturbing harbinger of things to come.

Lamont’s essential campaign message is that Senator Lieberman does not accurately represent the people of Connecticut—solely because of the Senator’s support for the Iraq war and his perceived closeness to the administration. Essentially, Lamont is getting Connecticut voters to vote against President Bush by voting against Joe Lieberman. Not only is this a decidedly poor way to choose between candidates for political office, it is indicative of the fundamental danger of Lamont’s siren song. The problem is that Lamont and his wing of the Democratic Party have, in their hatred of President Bush, transcended all levels of political competition and embraced a sort of self-delusional nihilism that is predicated upon sheer contempt for one man. This does not make for good political philosophy, and more importantly, it does not make for good governance.

In 1964, Republican voters endorsed Arizona conservative Barry Goldwater as their party’s candidate for President over the Northeastern liberal Nelson Rockefeller. The primary marked a genuine ideological shift, with Republicans almost universally embracing conservatism to the exclusion of the leftover remnants of the progressive Republican titans such as Rockefeller. While Goldwater lost the election of 1964 to Lyndon Johnson, his campaign helped pave the way for Ronald Reagan and the resurgence of conservatism in the second half of the twentieth century. It was the defining moment of the Republican Party and forced Republicans to permanently commit to a conservative agenda.

Forty years later, Mr. Lamont’s supporters no doubt hope to pull off such a revolutionary party movement, with the ultimate goal being a Democratic Party united on an anti-war ticket. Unfortunately, unlike the Goldwater partisans, Lamont does not have a coherent ideological message. Lamont simply wants to eliminate all traces of George W. Bush from government, no matter whom he destroys in order to accomplish this. It is this nihilistic nature of the Lamont campaign that makes it so dangerous. Like any demagogue, Lamont has his own popular appeal. He can offer Connecticut voters what they seem to want—a purging of the pro-Bush faction. Regardless of one’s feelings about the President, an honest account of the possible consequences of a widespread victory for men like Ned Lamont is in order.

Most obviously, a Senator Lamont would vote to “redeploy” (he means retreat) out of Iraq. With potential Democratic takeovers in the House and Senate, the possibility of such a vote is quite real. Blinded by their fundamental hatred of an American President and the war that has come to define his Presidency, Lamont and his cohorts would orchestrate the single greatest foreign policy catastrophe in American history. The withdrawal of American forces from Iraq before a stable and secure Iraqi democracy was created would sentence the Iraqi people to endless sectarian strife. Moreover, the Shiites would look towards a new state sponsor to provide support for their government—and choose their Shiite brothers in Iran. Thusly, Iraq would become a proxy state of the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism and would provide integral resources and arms for the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. Essentially, Iraq would become another Afghanistan pre-liberation in 2001, and in ten or so years, we’d have to go back in to clear out a Taliban-style government. We can get the job done in Iraq now or we can pay the price for a generation.

Certainly, the administration needs to do more to improve the situation on the ground. While many strategic decisions have proven incorrect, the fog of war does not allow for perfect wars. However, one must keep in mind that Americans have always faced adversity. If not for a Christmas miracle at Trenton, Washington’s Continental Army never would have made it to the endgame outside Yorktown. Lincoln was one afternoon in July 1863 away from losing the Civil War, and Eisenhower nearly declared defeat after the first several waves at Omaha Beach. American military history is filled with catastrophic setbacks that we were always able—and more importantly, willing—to overcome. In comparison, the blunders seen in Iraq are rather insignificant and are easily surmounted—if we just have the will to wage a war for our own survival against the forces of global jihad. Unfortunately, men like Ned Lamont will never understand this and will do whatever they see necessary to take a ceremonial slap at the President.

At the close of the Boer War, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle remarked, “The deepest instincts of the nation told it that it must fight and win, or forever abdicate its position in the world. Through dark days which brought out the virtues of our [nation] as nothing has done in our generation, we struggled grimly on until the light had fully broken once again.” Are we willing to struggle grimly on?