• If you are having problems logging in please use the Contact Us in the lower right hand corner of the forum page for assistance.

A reason why Geo.Washington didn't take a poll @ ValleyForge

Help Support Ranchers.net:


Well-known member
Feb 10, 2005
Reaction score
This was in the NYTimes today and I thought it well written:

Iraq and the Polls
There's a reason George Washington didn't take a poll at Valley Forge. There are times in the course of war when the outcome is simply unknowable. Victory is clearly not imminent, yet people haven't really thought through the consequences of defeat. Everybody just wants the miserable present to go away.

We're at one of those moments in the war against the insurgency in Iraq. The polls show rising disenchantment with the war. Sixty percent of Americans say they want to withdraw some or all troops.

Yet I can't believe majorities of Americans really want to pull out and accept defeat. I can't believe they want to abandon to the Zarqawis and the Baathists those 8.5 million Iraqis who held up purple fingers on Election Day. I can't believe they are yet ready to accept a terrorist-run state in the heart of the Middle East, a civil war in Iraq, the crushing of democratic hopes in places like Egypt and Iran, and the ruinous consequences for American power and prestige.

What they want to do, more likely, is somehow escape the current moment, which is discouraging and uncertain. One of the many problems with fighting an insurgency is that it is nearly impossible to know if we are winning or losing. It's like watching a football game with no goal lines and chaotic action all over the field.

On the one hand, there are signs of progress. U.S. forces have completed a series of successful operations, among them Operation Spear in western Iraq, where at least 60 insurgents were killed and 100 captured, and Operation Lightning in Baghdad, with over 500 arrests. American forces now hold at least 14,000 suspected insurgents, and have captured about two dozen lieutenants of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. There were reports this week of insurgents fighting each other, foreign against domestic.

There is also the crawling political progress that is crucial to success. Sunni leaders now regret not taking part in the elections and Sunnis are helping to draft the constitution.

These tactical victories, however, have not added up to improvement over all. Insurgent attacks are up. Casualties are up. Few Iraqi security forces can operate independently, so far. There aren't enough U.S. troops to hold the ground they conquer. The insurgents are adaptable, organized and still learning.

Still, one thing is for sure: since we don't have the evidence upon which to pass judgment on the overall trajectory of this war, it's important we don't pass judgment prematurely.

It's too soon to accept the defeatism that seems to have gripped so many. If governments surrendered to insurgencies after just a couple of years, then insurgents would win every time. But they don't because insurgencies have weaknesses, exposed over time, especially when they oppose the will of the majority.

It's just wrong to seek withdrawal now, when the outcome of the war is unknowable and when the consequences of defeat are so vast.

Some of you will respond that this is easy for me to say, since I'm not over there. All I'd say is that we live in a democracy, where decisions are made by all. Besides, the vast majority of those serving in Iraq, and their families, said they voted to re-elect President Bush. They seem to want to finish the job.

Others will say we shouldn't be there in the first place. You may be right. Time will tell. But right now, this isn't about your personal vindication. It's about victory for the forces of decency and defeating those, like Zarqawi, who would be attacking us in any case.

On Tuesday, Senator Joe Biden gave a speech in Washington on Iraq, after his most recent visit. It was, in some ways, a model of what the president needs to tell the country in the weeks ahead. It was scathing about the lack of progress in many areas. But it was also constructive. "I believe we can still succeed in Iraq," he said. Biden talked about building the coalition at home that is necessary if we are to get through the 2006 election cycle without a rush to the exits.

Biden's speech brought to mind something Franklin Roosevelt told the country on Feb. 23, 1942: "Your government has unmistakable confidence in your ability to hear the worst, without flinching or losing heart. You must, in turn, have complete confidence that your government is keeping nothing from you except information that will help the enemy in his attempt to destroy us."

That's how democracies should fight, even in the age of polling.

E-mail: [email protected]

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Latest posts