Bush spoke eloquently the other day about what the war on terror requires of us. He said, “The war on terror is not a figure of speech. It is an inescapable calling of our generation.” Those words ring true. Whatever drives them, whatever grieves them, Islamic fanatics have declared war and seem willing to wage it to the death. If they prevail, our children will grow up in a world where fear governs the imagination and determines the rules of life. Mr. Bush clearly believes what he said: The war on terror is an inescapable calling of the generation now in charge.
Like most Americans, I want to support him in that work; I want to do my part. But the president makes it hard. He confused us by going after Saddam Hussein when the villain behind the mass murders of 9/11 was Osama bin Laden. He seems not to realize how his credibility has been shredded by all the false and misleading reasons put forth to justify invading Iraq; Lyndon Johnson never recovered from using the dubious events at the Gulf of Tonkin as an excuse to go to war in Vietnam, and even if Mr. Bush wins reelection this November, he, too, will eventually be dragged down by the powerful undertow that inevitably accompanies public deception. The public will grow intolerant of partisan predators and crony capitalists indulging in a frenzy of feeding at the troughs in Baghdad and Washington. And there will come a time when the president will have no one to rely on except his most rabid allies in the right wing media; he will discover too late that you cannot win the hearts and minds of the public at large in a nation polarized and pulverized by endless propaganda at odds with reality.
So what to do? How to assure we win this war?