"We are on the offense," he (Bush) insisted, sounding sometimes as frustrated as us columnists that so much of the wider momentum had become (in Charles Krauthammer's words) "mired in diplomacy." Still, it was a different conversation than most Bush encounters with the media-political class. I happened to be plugging my book on a local radio show this week just as a Minnesota "conservative" (ish) Democrat joined the herd of stampeding donkeys explaining why they were now disowning their vote in favor of the Iraq war. What a sorry sight. It's not a question of whether you're "for" or "against" a war. Once you're in it, the choice is to win it or lose it. And, if you're arguing for what will look to most of the world like the latter option, you better understand what the consequences are. In this case, it would, in effect, end the American moment.
Does that bother people? Bush said something, en passant, that I brooded on all the way home. Asked about poll numbers, he said that 25 percent of the population are always against the war -- any war.
That sounds about right. And it's a bit disturbing. To be sure, if Canadian storm troopers were swarming across the 49th Parallel or Bahamian warships were firing off the coast of Florida, some of that 25 percent might change their mind, though it might be a bit late by then. But, as America's highly unlikely to be facing that kind of war in the foreseeable future, that 25 percent's objection to the only wars on offer is rather unnerving.
The invaluable Brussels Journal recently translated an interview with the writer Oscar van den Boogaard from the Belgian paper De Standaard. A Dutch gay "humanist" (which is pretty much the trifecta of Eurocool), van den Boogaard was reflecting on the accelerating Islamification of the Continent and concluding that the jig was up for the Europe he loved. "I am not a warrior, but who is?" he shrugged. "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it."
Too many of us are only good at enjoying freedom. That war-is-never-the-answer 25 percent are in essence saying that there's nothing about America worth fighting for, and that, ultimately, the continuation of their society is a bet on the kindness of strangers -- on the goodnaturedness of Kim Jong Il and the mullahs and al-Qaida and what the president called "al-Qaida lookalikes and al-Qaida wannabes" and whatever nuclear combination thereof comes down the pike. Some of us don't reckon that's a good bet, and think America's arms-are-for-hugging crowd need to get real. Van den Boogaard's arms are likely to be doing rather less of their preferred form of hugging in the European twilight.
As tiresome and as frustrating as Bush and the GOP are, at least they get the serious of the war, the consequences if we lose - most of the time. Some folks I talk to say that they do not think this is a "real" war, still others that why we are fighting is not worth a war. What is worth a war? Our way of life? Our religious freedom? The oppression of women and minorities? Our safety? The safety of our allies?