I know this is very presumptuous of me. I’m a person of little consequence in the big scheme of things. I had these thoughts in response to an interview I saw on C-SPAN recently with Dinesh D’Souza talking about his new book The Enemy At Home. I’ve heard others say the same thing as the book’s thesis: President Bush is in fact fighting two wars. One abroad against Islamic extremism, and one at home against the American Left. One who is familiar with the democratic process would say, “Yeah, so? What’s your point?”
According to a recent poll done by Fox News (PDF–see page 6, question #19), 22% (about 1 in 5 Americans) want Bush’s troop surge plan in Iraq to fail. This seems incomprehensible. I can’t read this any other way than this proportion of our populace wants us to lose the war in Iraq. Going into the demographics, the highest proportion that want this plan to fail are Democrats (34%), coming in 2nd are independents (19%), and lastly Republicans (11%). On the bright side, 63% of Americans want the plan to succeed, but you would think the proportion would be higher.
In a later question, #22, when respondents were asked “If U.S. troops were to withdraw from Iraq before the country was stabilized, do you think Usama bin Laden would claim victory?”, most said “yes”, though the number saying “no” is close to the proportion that did not want the troop surge plan to work, 26%.
In question #30, when respondents were asked “If the United States loses the war in Iraq, do you believe terrorists would be more likely to be satisfied, and leave the United States alone or encouraged to attack the United States again, or will it not make a difference to future attacks?”, a plurality, 48%, said it would make no difference at all (we would face the same danger of attacks as we do now), or did not know. Slightly less, 46%, thought it would encourage attacks. The remaining 7% thought it would likely cause the terrorists to leave us alone entirely.
Most of the people who said it would make no difference or did not know were Democrats (54%) and independents (49%–plurality). A significant minority of Democrats (11%) thought it would likely cause the terrorists to leave us alone.
D’Souza’s thesis in his book is that there is a strange symbiosis going on between the far left in this country and the jihadists abroad. He makes clear that they are not coordinating or cooperating with each other, but that they are independently playing off of each other, with the common goal of causing America to lose its political will to continue fighting in Iraq. The jihadists abroad are using the Left’s opposition to the Iraq war as encouragement and propaganda for their cause, and the far left in this country is using the jihadist attacks as a means of diminishing Americans’ confidence in President Bush. They want America to lose the war in Iraq because they think it will have the effect of defeating Bush politically, and cause America to refrain from intervening militarily in the future, among other things.
I don’t think this is idle speculation. I have been getting this sense as well from watching what the far left has been saying. Instead of looking at what is actually happening on the ground in Iraq–the potential for the basing of terrorist operations–the Left has instead tried to tie the war in Iraq exclusively to a political argument about the Bush Administration. For them it’s all about Bush, not jihadist terrorism. The potential for increased terrorism on the U.S. as a result of losing in Iraq appears to not even be a consideration.
I think this is terribly dangerous, but the polling data above sheds some light on why the problem exists. There is a disconnect between what people think of the Iraq conflict and the reality on the ground.
My advice to Bush is that he, or someone he can dedicate to this task, needs to tell the American people as much as he can about how al Qaeda operates. He needs to illustrate the process. Secondly a cultural context needs to be put in place. People need to see a reason why it’s important to fight for democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., and why the jihadists are actively fighting against it. They need to see how this is a part of defeating Islamic radicalism as opposed to it just being a preference of the Bush Administration.
Polling shows that most Americans, despite what they feel about Iraq, want to continue the fight against al Qaeda. The message has not gotten through to people that al Qaeda is spread across many nations, and that it operates rather like a virus. The methods by which it recruits and brainwashes people needs to be disseminated. Al Qaeda is systemic. It is a combination of ideology and support systems, such as madrassas and training camps, and in some cases complicit governments. It does not have a top-down leadership structure where once you “cut off the head” (excuse my use of metaphore) the rest of the organization dies. It needs to be clear to people that getting Osama bin Laden will not stop al Qaeda. It’s not enough that Bush tells people this. The reasons behind this reality need to be illustrated. It needs to be clearly communicated to people that al Qaeda is in Iraq right now and hopes to establish a base of operations there from which to launch attacks on other countries, including the U.S., just as they did in Afghanistan before we invaded there.
A primer on the functioning of jihadist terrorist groups, what they need to form and thrive, would be very helpful in getting people to understand the problem. They would also need to see the prototypical functioning of a growing terrorist cell structure mapped to events that have been transpiring abroad, especially in Iraq. From what I can tell right now, most people don’t understand this. They need to.
Lastly, it’s not enough to illustrate all of this on PBS, the Discovery Channel, or on C-SPAN. This needs to get out through mainstream outlets to reach the broadest audience.
To be honest, despite my dislike of the far left, when it comes to this issue I could care less what their agenda is. I only think their agenda in this case is dangerous because they have blinded themselves to the threat of Islamic terrorism. They are so focused on their own perception, as D’Souza says, that Bush represents “Christian terrorism” that it shuts out every other consideration. I’ve heard about this here and there, but it has not been blatently exposed for all to see. Instead the far left agenda message takes other forms like, “This war is not even worth winning.”
Somehow the Bush Administration needs to communicate about the war better than it has to the American people. It’s essential for our own national security. The far left is on its own “jihad” against Bush right now, and they’re using the Iraq war as their wedge issue. They are rooting for America to lose for their own domestic political reasons. That’s an unfortunate fact of life. It’s a distraction, but it has to be dealt with, again, not because I want to defeat the far left in this instance, but because the method they are using to try to bring Bush down will, if they succeed, have the effect of putting this country in grave danger. I do not say this because I think Bush is the only one who can fight the War on Terror. I say it because military and political success in Iraq is important to our national security.