Opponents of President Bush's plan for salvaging the dire situation in Iraq have every right to speak out. And those in Congress who believe it pointless to do anything other than accept defeat have the power to cut off funds.
But the President of the United States has rights and powers as well. He is the commander in chief, and his war-fighting abilities cannot be micro-managed. The president's critics also should consider how their words sound to those dispatching suicide bombers, planting roadside bombs and looking forward to the day they can burn down the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on CNN and al-Jazeera.
Skepticism about the new approach is widespread — and not just among Democrats. There are those who fear Bush is not committing enough troops to get the job done. Others worry that the administration's actions won't match Bush's rhetoric. Some say the plan relies too much on Iraqi officials and forces that have proven unreliable.
There are two logical responses: Propose a better way forward, or candidly call for the United States to accept defeat — without trying to spin that as "redeployment" or some other transparent euphemism.
In the end, we don't think most Democrats will want to be in the position of saying they support the troops in Iraq even as they hold back the reinforcements needed to complete their mission.
After the swift toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime, things got tougher. Some leading Democrats have tried to draw a distinction between the war in Iraq (a war they overwhelming favored at the start) and the wider war on terrorism. The distinction was never valid, and today it is less so than ever. Osama bin Laden himself regards Iraq as the central front in al-Qaeda's jihad.
There's no sugarcoating it: A defeat for the United States in Iraq would be a victory for our mortal enemies. It would lead to other defeats for U.S. forces on other battlefields. It would guarantee more terrorism and more dead American citizens.
So scrutinize and criticize, if you must. But then give us a plan to win. Our nation can accept nothing less.
Andrew C. McCarthy is a former federal prosecutor and director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Center for Law & Counterterrorism. Clifford D. May is president of the FDD.