Recovering Our Nerve

"Getting the wind up", is an old British expression for panicking.

Issue: Summer 2004

"Getting the wind up", is an old British expression for panicking. To be "windy" in the trenches during World War I was to be openly terrified. Since the graphic revelations of the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Washington, dc, has replaced Chicago as America's windy city.

But it is not just America's political elites who have got the wind up. To judge by the most recent opinion polls, nearly half the electorate feels the same way. As many as 50 percent of voters say they would like to see American troops wholly or partially withdrawn from Iraq, and soon. The starting point for any serious analysis of America's predicament must be that this is not a serious option. Sometimes, to borrow a more recent British catchphrase famously used by Margaret Thatcher, there is no alternative. That lady was not for turning. This president must make sure that the wind blowing through the nation's capital doesn't turn him either.

First, let's refresh our collective memory. It was right to overthrow Saddam Hussein; the biggest defect of American policy towards Iraq was that the task was left undone for twelve years. The Bush Doctrine of pre-emption is eminently sensible and has good historical precedents. But the overthrow of Saddam wasn't pre-emption; it was post-emption, since he had done all the mischief of which he was capable some time before March 2003.

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