Jay B. Gaskill

Those who are pressuring this President to jettison his Secretary of Defense belong to two completely different camps: (1) the “Iraq is a quagmire crowd”, for whom Sec. Def. Rumsfeld’s departure would be just the first installment in a payment schedule ending in the president’s own removal; (2) the equally misguided (and panic stricken) “we’re just trying to help you, Mr. President” cohort. The second group is even more naïve than those who bought into the Iraq war as a cake walk followed by a quick exit. Replacing one of the most effective Defense Secretaries in modern history during a war makes about as much sense as repairing a jet airliner’s main engines during flight. And replace this man by whom? Critics are not able to answer this question. No one of commensurate capability, vision and experience is available.

Not only is this secretary of defense manifestly not responsible for the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal, he is clearly the best person to oversee its cleanup. Long before the scandal became a media feeding frenzy, the wheels of military justice were grinding toward the inevitable prosecutions of the miscreant soldiers involved. This, in itself, is remarkable. Can you imagine, during the darker days of WWII, pausing to worry about the abuse of Nazi or Japanese prisoners?

Yes, the Iraq war planning did not include adequate attention or resources for the unexpectedly fierce resistance that materialized after the unexpectedly low resistance to the invasion itself. War is like that. Full of the unexpected.

This administration decided to undertake a massive post 9-11 struggle against a multi-national enemy with pre-911 resources that had been stripped of personnel and materiel by the prior administration. It was a gamble that “Rummy” supported. And it has not gone well.

But nations and their leaders learn from experience. With notable exceptions, our troops were not well equipped and trained for urban warfare. But real war teaches two important lessons over and over again: (1) You can’t plan and train for everything. (2) Experience is the very best teacher…provided it doesn’t kill you.

We can be confident that we will get through this phase, achieve reasonable stability in Iraq, and set democratic changes in motion, provided we don’t have a failure of nerve. I am equally confident that this Sec. Def. and this army are learning from the Iraq experience. Make no mistake: We going to need that experience elsewhere.

This country is the target because we are in the way of a neo-fascist juggernaut, a pathological ideology loosely based on a major world religion whose adherents include many peace loving men and women, but – let’s just say it straight: This is a religion with a multi-century track record of jihad. A new, pan Arab state born in terror and intimidation, governed by doctrines that resemble the malign products of Adolph Hitler’s fevered mind? That prospect is unacceptable.

So we face a crisis of vision and nerve. Can the freest and most prosperous nation in the world awake to the nature of this struggle? Iraq is just one battle in a much larger war that must be fought by our nation because no one else can. Many of our citizens are naïve enough to think that if we don’t “stir up” these terrorists they will leave us alone.

This president, his Sec. Def., his National Security Advisor and Secretary of State have no such illusions. They know, as most realistic observers not blinded by ideology, comfort or isolationism also know, that the very fabric of modern, pluralist civilization is under a broad, concerted and deadly serious series of attacks by a fanatical subset of Islam, one bent on remaking a huge part of the world in its image. Did you hear the blood chilling screams on the video tape of a young Jewish American whose head was severed by an Al Quaeda terrorist leader sheltered by Saddam? It was a warning.

We can’t afford to lose this.

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