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Staying the Course
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. [writer] 9/20/06

The nautical metaphor “stay the course” is often used by incumbents in attempts to persuade voters, especially in wartime, to demonstrate support for their policies by reelecting them. Actually, ships rarely stay the course because shifting winds and currents require course adjustments in order to stay on track and reach the intended destination. So it must be with the ship of state, plowing through treacherous seas toward ultimate success in the war on terrorism.

I say success rather than victory because there may be no ultimate victory in this war. It is doubtful that we can ever totally eliminate terrorism from the earth so long as religious extremism and intolerance of other faiths create fanatics driven toward violence. We will probably always have to contend with suicide bombers foolishly believing that God actually wishes them to kill those of His creatures who practice a different faith or form of worship and that they will earn a heavenly reward by doing so.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

Nobody said that this war would be brief or easy or without cost and setbacks. But we must bear whatever hardship and costs that may be required and persevere through the setbacks because the consequences of failure are simply unacceptable and they would be borne primarily by our children and grandchildren. We are fighting to save civilization for them.

With two years remaining in office and facing low levels of public confidence, President George W. Bush is still displaying remarkable passion and conviction in telling the American people why we must remain on track in prosecuting this difficult war, including ensuring that Iraq is not abandoned to become a haven for international terrorists.. He acknowledges mistakes that have set us off track but these are best dealt with by course adjustments, not by reversing course. He says, correctly, that most Americans want us to win this war. How could they want anything else and still be counted loyal Americans?

The president’s heightened appeals for support and understanding of the difficulties we face, though sincere, are clearly timed for maximum impact on voters in the midterm elections who, if the early polls can be believed, seem poised to unseat some Republican incumbents. Democratic office seekers and Bush critics, aided by a liberal, Bush-bashing mainstream media, are attempting to exploit the characteristic impatience of an American public weary of watching TV images of carnage and destruction in Iraq. Most of them are doing so with the best of intentions, perhaps, but their actions further weaken the public resolve to see this difficult Iraq campaign through to some successful conclusion, thus encouraging our terrorist enemies to believe that they can wear us down.

Rather than blaming America’s enemies, they blame the president for the difficulties, setbacks and casualties, largely predicted after 9/11, in a manner reminiscent of the blame heaped upon Harry Truman for Korea and Lyndon Johnson for Vietnam. Impatient for something that can be called victory, intolerant of casualties, protracted wars are not popular with Americans and they will inevitably take out their frustrations on the party in power. We have been in Iraq longer than we were in World War II.

Should that frustration translate into enough election victories for Democrats to take control of the Congress, the task of prosecuting this war will become immeasurably more difficult. For one thing, there will almost certainly be an effort to impeach the president. While it would deservedly fail, consider the effect such an event would have on world opinion and on the morale of our enemies.

We would, of course, survive such things but at what cost? And then what? Would there be a new direction in the war on terrorism? What direction might that be? We haven’t a clue from the likes of Kerry, Gore, Clinton, Biden, Kennedy or Pelosi. What is their plan for pursuing the war on terrorism and keeping America safe other than consulting with world diplomats and urging UN resolutions? American voters need to know and they should demand answers. Criticism of the present course does not constitute a strategy.

In World War II and previous wars we had a loyal opposition. Those days are, sadly, over. Politics has become so ugly and people so polarized that every issue, every setback, every casualty is exploited by politicians for political gain and by the media for viewer and reader attention. When things go badly, instead of rallying around our wartime leader, we turn against him. But before we do, it’s fair to ask ourselves what it is that we would do differently. CRO

copyright 2006 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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