Recovering Our Nerve

Recovering Our Nerve

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

by Author(s): Niall Ferguson

In any case, nothing would do more to add to the mood of panic in America than a high-level resignation. Rumsfeld certainly succumbed to hubris last year. His model of an Army Lite--small, but perfectly formed--has proved incompatible with the task of the occupation of Iraq, as any number of weary National Guardsmen and reservists out there will confirm. But only a micromanaging Defense Secretary could credibly be held to blame for the vile misconduct of Private Lynndie England and her comrades.

No, what is needed at this stage is double helpings of humble pie all round, followed by an address to the nation by President Bush reminding us, as I have tried to do here, of the case for the overthrow of Saddam; frankly and penitently acknowledging the mistakes that have been made; and spelling out clearly and firmly why American can and must stick to the task of salvaging Iraq from the wreckage of Saddam's tyranny.

The American people have shown great faith in their president. In the light of recent events, the continued willingness of so many voters to give George W. Bush the benefit of the doubt is little short of amazing. But he owes it to them to spell out how we are going to achieve, ultimately, a success in Iraq that will genuinely set back the cause of the extreme Islamists and their sponsor, and that will genuinely increase the chances of an enduring peace in the region. If he cannot do this convincingly, he will not deserve to be re-elected.

It was a famous anthem of the Vietnam generation: The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind. The wind that is blowing in Washington today is not the kind of wind Bob Dylan had in mind. It is a wind not of change but of panic--a wind that would take America back to the failed tactics of appeasement, brokering and containment that have yielded such dismal results in the Middle East since the beginning of the Islamist revolution in 1979. As I write the wind is howling. President Bush has much to do if he is to avoid being blown clean out of the White House by it.

Essay Types: Book Review