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My son is a 22 year old Sergeant in the Army Reserve MPs heading to Iraq in early May. So I listened with a Father’s interest to President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy speech delivered Friday, April 20, 2007, in East Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Our Sergeant is in Ft. Bliss, Texas nearing completion of almost three months of in-country combat and medical training. He enjoys what he’s doing, and he’s pleased to serve his country. Mom and Dad are proud of him. But pride and patriotism don’t bring one’s son home soon.

Sitting in a choice seat in the third row, I already knew what President Bush hoped to accomplish in Iraq and why he thought it was essential. But I wanted to hear how he proposed we get it done and how soon he thought American service personnel might come home. Nothing new in this. Just the yearning of every war-weary American and certainly the desire of nervous parents.

We’re in Iraq, President Bush said, because the primary lesson we learned from 9-11 is that terrorists can and will bring their hate to our shores. “Our enemies make no distinctions based on borders,” so America can no longer afford to be isolationist. “What happens in Baghdad matters in the U.S.”

Beyond a desire to defend ourselves, President Bush believes that all human beings want to be free and the vast majority of people want to live in peace, because “the Almighty” made us that way. If most Iraqis are given a chance, they will not turn to terror or help terrorists. The President refers to Iraq as a “young democracy,” and points to the 12 million Iraqis who voted for freedom three years ago. In his view, most Iraqi people are glad for American intervention, but we’re still fighting because “The U.S. wants to achieve peace and build lives. Insurgents want to achieve terror and take lives.”

President Bush puts great stock in his new strategy of counterinsurgency warfare. Top priority is to help Iraq secure its ability to put leaders in place by training and mentoring Iraqi security forces. We’ve moved American troop bases from the outskirts of Baghdad to neighborhoods we expect to secure. Unfortunately, the President said this new strategy will take some time, will bring higher risks, and will result in higher casualties.

But things are improving. The President said the number of sectarian murders has dropped by half since the latest operation began. But since the developments of peace are not as spectacular as a terrorist bomb, media tend to focus on the worst experiences of war.

Mr. Bush said people want to withdraw despite progress on the ground. “It’s gloomy despair in Washington,” he said, “but cautious optimism in Baghdad.” But withdrawal is not a strategy. It would “plunge the country into chaos,” and “it would encourage enemies like Iran.”

The President says what we do not want to hear, that the fight in Iraq will be long and trying. We are in “a difficult moment in history. But it is a consequential moment. The security of America depends directly on what happens in Iraq.” The danger is real and our troops understand this best. They are “doing what they do so that 9-11 will never happen again.”

The President came alive in the last few minutes of his speech, liberated at last from a prepared text and expressing his core values. He believes in the “power of liberty to overcome an ideology of hate.” For a proof he sites the power of liberty transforming enemies to allies—in particular Japan. Referring to his father’s heroic service against the Japanese in WWII, he wryly noted, “41 fought them. 43 works with them. Japan is now a partner in peace.”

We want our Sergeant home safe and soon, but we understand his role in protecting the freedom hard-won by our fathers. Clear objectives, clear strategies, and coordinated resolve are the safest ways our troops can operate in harms way. The first two essentials are within our grasp. The question remains whether the American people can provide the third—the will to see tough times through to resolution. American troops can succeed, but the rest of us must back them.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2007

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