President Bush had no choice but to veto a bill that would have undermined an American commander on the battlefield, a bill that would have legislated a consequential American defeat.
The hope now is that more moderate voices in the Democratic Party will prevail, and that Bush will get a new bill, one that provides Gen. David Petraeus and his troops with the resources they need — if not the bipartisan support they would like — to carry out their arduous and vital mission.
Bush said on Tuesday that “it will be at least the end of summer before we can assess the impact of this operation.” That really means Petraeus has four months to make — and demonstrate — progress in a clash of arms, while Bush must simultaneously make headway in a clash of narratives.
Bush must convince Americans that the bloodshed in Iraq is not — as the far left insists — a justified response to America’s “occupation.” Nor are we primarily intervening in a civil war, a domestic dispute that should not concern us, as other critics of the war contend.
Rather, Americans are fighting al-Qaeda’s most lethal branch and thwarting the imperialist ambitions of Tehran. And we are giving decent Iraqis — the majority of Iraqis — a last chance to learn to rule themselves and defend themselves.
Bush also must communicate how costly would be an American defeat in Iraq. Years ago, we retreated from Vietnam; though millions of Asians suffered and died, Americans were able to get on with their lives and even eventually prevail in the Cold War.
Should we lose the Battle of Baghdad, we are not likely to get off so easily.