When I think about the meaning of “Superpower,” I think “leadership” and “strength.” Some may think of “bully” or “self-interest.” Nobody would think of “wimp” or “fair weather friend.” Recent polls indicate the naysayers are winning the battle to redefine “Superpower” as “Fair Weather Friend.”
America is involved in a war in Iraq, along with its allies, now at the request of the new Iraqi government.
Its hard to tell how the war is going because there are regular, devastating attacks by the enemy – and the media promotes these, while ignoring good work. Successes are often only shown on a slow news day.
There are also regular, devastating verbal attacks inside the US, by those opposed to the war. This has a bad psychological effect on the public, if you believe the polls.
When many of those opposed to the war speak out, they describe a war already lost and they demand a troop withdrawal, saying Iraqis can sort it out on their own.
The state of the war isn’t crystal clear, but those people are wrong – the war is not lost. There are many problems, but there are also many successes. Iraq is a large country and there are 8 million people. Military estimates say there are about 10,000 people in jail, 1,000 terrorists and 10,000 Iraqi insurgents. It looks like a force large enough to cause problems, but not large enough or powerful enough to win.
The terrorists and insurgents want to foment a civil war but it must not be allowed to happen.
Clearly, Iraq is in no fit state to protect itself right now, so it needs help to attain stability. Iraq is under attack by outside terrorists and Baathist insurgents who lost the control they once had under Saddam. In such a situation, this is the time Iraqis find out who their friends really are and they don’t want any nasty surprises.
If the polls are to be believed, the public feeling is that the war isn’t worth fighting and there should be a withdrawal.
Withdrawal or even the prospect of it would be the wrong signal to send to the whole world. It would paint a very bad picture of America and for America. The medium and long term effects of that would come back to haunt America and the world.
There are some who would love to see this picture of a weak-willed America withdrawing with its tail between its legs, abandoning a fledgeling democratic government and 8 million people.
The terrorists and their supporters want to see a withdrawal – it is part of their objective. Other enemies of the US would likely be happy to see it too – Korea, Iran, Syria – because it would show them a strategy for defeating America at another time. Call me paranoid, but others may be interested in that lesson too.
This picture must have a chilling effect on the troops who need steadfast support to do what they have to do. Imagine what its like for them, risking their lives and they get the message “Oops, we’ve changed our minds, even though we’re not there, we know you are losing, the war was wrong and unwinnable – pull out and try not get shot as you leave.”
Iraqis are starting to see democracy in action for themselves. The carrot has been dangled in front of them and they’ve been exercising their democratic rights already, holding discussions and complaining about the government without fear of retribution. They are taking new jobs, risking their lives to be policemen, teachers or workers. Can we now say “You’ve tasted 15 minutes of freedom, work the rest out yourselves – because we can’t take the heat.”
For America’s allies, this is a devastating picture. Can they ever trust America again? What kind of friend is it that starts a fight, recruits assistance then decides to cut and run when the going gets tough?
At home, those leading the charge for a withdrawal are only thinking about the next election. They want withdrawal, they want a different exit strategy than has already been defined, but they have no solution themselves.
Anyone can tear down an idea, but it takes great strength to put up a better strategy, a workable plan. Most of the naysayers don’t have a strategy other than “exit now and leave Iraq to sort itself out.” They fault the administration for having no thought of consequences, yet they ignore the consequences of a withdrawal.
What a message that would send! America the “fair weather friend” – great at starting things, but incapable of finishing them. Starts a fight, then exits as soon as trouble begins and hopes someone else can finish it off.
A lot of good may come from this. Maybe voter turnout could increase because people see that their vote really does count or the negative situation of their representatives taking action they don’t like will make them exercise their right and obligation to vote.
This is not the America I thought I knew.
Blame for this situation falls in many places.
The Bush Administration has been leading the charge without telling the whole story and playing politics rather than showing real leadership at home. Mistakes have been made, few have been admitted and too few corrections made. For the public to believe in the strategy and plans, the story must be packaged and sold like any product. The story must be truthful, clear and based on reality, not hope.
The administration hasn’t done as good a job as it could have with its diverse audience.
Everyone needs to know what the goal is – a free Iraq that can determine its own direction. They also need to know that this goal will be met – nothing will stop it from being pursued or achieved.
The terrorists need to know that they will be stopped at all costs. Supporters of the terrorists need to be told they are considered as part of the terrorist organization and as such, they are subject to the same sanctions.
Allies need to know America is steadfast, that the goals are good and achievable and they are winners themselves and on the side of the winners.
The public must believe in the goal and they must see that problems are addressed.
The troops need to know they have the backing of the government and the people and everything is being done to supply them with what they need to do the job.
Those in power positions opposed to the war appear more intent on destroying the opposing ideology than in making a meaningful contribution and achieving success.
To make a real contribution, they don’t have to rubber-stamp everything. It means they must work to force improvements. It has always been easier and faster to tear down a building than to build one. Those opposed to the war have stopped working to make improvements – they are in the demolition business, no matter what the cost to the nation or anyone else.
It isn’t wrong to disagree with the administration and with the conduct of the war. What is wrong is tearing down without providing a real solution. Playing politics, with the intention of causing problems is wrong. These people are not stupid, but what they are doing is.
The media appears to welcome problems and failures, using sensationalism to sell newspapers and to get viewers. There have been many successes, but they rarely get the coverage they deserve.
The blogosphere often carries false stories put forward as truth. Some of these have been picked up by others with an agenda and spread as though repeating a false claim would make it true. Their theory seems to be to cause as much political damage as possible, as long as it furthers their ideas. They don’t care that it also damages the nation or the troops because they think they can blame the government.
The administration cannot accommodate everyone – some people will always be so far out on the opposite pole that there is no way to have them onside. When you are on a course of action, there must be a strength and sense of purpose that is not swayed by polls and the court of public opinion. That said, there is a need to explain what is being done and why – barring reasons of national security and protection of those on the front lines.
In my experience, people will work with you, even when there are problems, as long as you include them in the overall plan and they can see you are working towards the stated goal and they believe in it. Even if things go wrong, they will still work with you.
The administration has not done that well and needs to stop the continual spin because they can’t afford to lose the psychological battle. What happened to “George Bush the uniter” – I haven’t seen him around for some time.
It is past time for the opposition to stop destroying and work to build.
It is time for the administration to lead and build the nation and for the opposition to build, not destroy.
“Superpower” status is more than just a word and America is not just a Fair Weather Friend