Cheat-Seeking Missles

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Negative War News A Good Thing?

Do we tell of their heroics, or go with bad news?

George Will has an interesting piece of advice for President Bush:
First, concentrate the public's mind on the deepening dangers beyond Iraq. Second, regarding Iraq, accentuate the negative and eliminate the positive -- that is, emphasize the dangers of failure and de-emphasize talk about Iraq's becoming a democracy that ignites emulative transformation in the Middle East.
Should Bush follow Will's advice, he'd be taking us back to World War II rhetorically. We've grown used to stories of success, grand goals, reconstruction, democracy -- and it's not for lack of watching history.

Wars today are still framed by Vietnam, and our leaders remember the ridicule heaped on the negative back then; the Domino Theory was snickered at, and anyone subscribing to it was thought a bit off kilter. No matter that it was proved to be true, to a great extent.

But lead off with the negative? He just might be right, because in the case of the Iraq war, whether you support the war or not, the negative implications of losing or withdrawing are unimaginable: The bloody collapse of Iraq, the rise of global Jihad, terrorists going next for Saudi Arabia, Iran's nuclear program unfettered.

In an interesting underscoring of Will's argument, Defense Secretary Rumsfield has an op/ed in today's WaPo which is pretty much exactly what Will doesn't want: We're building democracy, the terrorists are on the run, we will win. It is only when we finally find our way to paragraph 12 of 14 that we see the negative:
Consider that if we retreat now, there is every reason to believe Saddamists and terrorists will fill the vacuum -- and the free world might not have the will to face them again. Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis. It would be as great a disgrace as if we had asked the liberated nations of Eastern Europe to return to Soviet domination because it was too hard or too tough or we didn't have the patience to work with them as they built free countries.
It's the most compelling article of the piece. Will is on to something.

hat-tip: RCP
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