Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The point is that we don't know

A bit of context. A more adult perspective. Jeff Jacoby.

Iraq is not the first war to plummet in popularity. At the start of the Civil War, many Northerners giddily anticipated a quick victory. Secretary of State William Seward ``thought the war would be over in 90 days," writes historian David Herbert Donald in his biography of Abraham Lincoln. ``The New York Times predicted victory in 30 days. "

Had they had an inkling of the carnage to come, would they have cheered Lincoln's bid to save the Union? Long before the war's end, the cheers would turn to censure. By 1863, the war was being denounced in Congress as ``an utter, disastrous, and most bloody failure," while Lincoln and his administration were despised for their incompetence. ``There never was such a shambling, half-and-half set of incapables collected in one government," Senator William Pitt Fessendon of Maine said in disgust, ``before or since the world began."

The point isn't that the violent mess in Iraq today is analogous to the Civil War in 1863, or to the Ardennes in 1944, or to the burning of Washington in 1814. The point is that we don't know. Like earlier Americans, we have to choose between resolve and retreat, with no guarantees about how it will end. All we can be sure of is that the stakes once again are liberty and decency vs. tyranny and terror -- that we are fighting an enemy that feeds on weakness and expects us to lose heart -- and that Americans for generations to come will remember whether we flinched.
(via Norm)

No comments: