WHEN SADDAM HUSSEIN goes to bed tonight in one of his underground bunkers, he will surely thank Allah that he is still alive, mindful that the White House is drawing up plans for his imminent demise.
If he’s wise, his prayers will also include gratitude for congressional Democrats, who seem to value undermining America’s president more than overthrowing Iraq’s dictator. It is their carping, their tepid support of the next, crucial stage in the War on Terror, that must give him whatever hope he maintains for survival.
Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, illustrates perfectly the Democrats’ peculiar lack of resolve. On the one hand, he swears to support forcefully removing Saddam Hussein from power. "We have no choice but to eliminate the threat," Biden said on Sunday’s "Meet the Press." "This is a guy who’s an extreme danger to the world." But Biden also seems eager to question or discredit the war, citing logistics and expenses as the purported cause of his party’s concern.
Biden has become the spokesman for the Democrats’ latest war posture, an odd combination of the boldly patriotic and skeptically bureaucratic. He enthuses about taking out Saddam while wringing his hands about phony concerns. "The only question," he says, "is, is [the war fought] alone, is it with others and how long and how costly will it be?"
The first question, whether the U.S. will need to go the war alone, can best be answered with another: Who cares? Allied support is a good and important thing, but not as good or important as fighting the war itself. The purpose of a coalition is to facilitate the prosecution of the war, not to stand in its way. While the Bush Administration should seek and welcome whatever support it can get in toppling Saddam, it should expect none, and not allow the prattling of lukewarm "allies" to derail its strategy.
As for the length and cost of the war, that question can also best be answered with another: What cost do Biden and the Democrats consider too great for protecting the lives of the country’s citizens and preventing the possibility of future attacks that would make 9-11 seem petty by comparison?
In his efforts to come across as prudent and cautious, Biden ends up sounding like the Republicans who, in their heart of hearts, know that adding a prescription-drug entitlement to Medicare is a bad idea, but lack the political nerve to say so. Instead, they seek the comfort of a bureaucratic middle ground: We’d love nothing more than to get the government in the free-pharmaceuticals business, we just want to make sure it can be done economically (snicker-snicker).
The Democrats’ professions of support for the war, its aims, and its next phase likewise carry conditions that ultimately render their support meaningless. If their backing of the war is contingent upon assurances that ousting Saddam Hussein will be cheap, easy, and endorsed by the "international community," then their backing is nothing more than a politically calculated fraud.
In amazingly short order — less than a year since terrorists executed the 9-11 attacks -- there has been a remarkable and disheartening shift in the Democrats’ approach to the war. What began as solid support for the President and his doing whatever it takes to bring terrorists and their patrons to their knees has since devolved into the latest forum for partisan quibbling and bureaucratic obstruction.
"We all support strongly a regime change" in Iraq, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said on Sunday’s "This Week." "But" — and there’s always a but — "I think we have to get our ducks in order. Do we have the support of our allies? Do we have an appropriate plan?"
Again, more fretting about what France and Syria think, this time coupled with yet another specious question. Do we have an appropriate plan? If the constant leaks from the Pentagon are any indication, we have several of them, all of which are under consideration of the White House, and none of which, for obvious reasons, should be further vetted in public.
It’s as though Democrats have forgotten that, less than a year ago, Islamic terrorists hijacked four jetliners with the intention of slamming them into highly populated buildings, and in three cases, succeeded. It’s as though those horrific images of the World Trade Center’s two towers burning, then collapsing on their weight as victims plunged dozens of stories to their death, were only make-believe.
They were not. The flags waving from motorists’ cars may be gone, the national sense of outrage and anger may have dissipated, but the war continues and the evil that sparked it still exists. It was less than a year ago that President Bush issued the war’s simple but unassailable doctrine: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
By that clear standard, Iraq couldn’t be a more obvious enemy. Saddam Hussein has long aided, stoked, and exploited radical Islamic tendencies in the Middle East. He has also feverishly worked to obtain chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, with the possible intentions of either blackmailing the U.S. or sharing his arsenal with some fanatical outfit planning the next 9-11. The threat he poses to American interests now pales in comparison to that which he’ll present once he has acquired a nuclear bomb.
Were Democrats serious about prosecuting the war and winning it, there would be no need for debate over his removal. They wouldn’t trifle about the cost, or worry whether the E.U. or the U.N. would approve. The only question would be: What must America do to win decisively and soon?
Oddly, that’s the one question Democrats aren’t asking.