The point? The heroic Iraqi citizens have traveled a more dangerous road toward democracy more rapidly then anyone ever expected, making that another part of the “failed war plan,” I assume. Can we agree that it’s great for Iraq, the Middle East and for us? Or perhaps you can’t share this enthusiasm because you hate the Bushies so much that a part of you hopes the elections fail.

But if you agree that this march toward democracy is excellent progress, you might wonder, as I do: Why is the criticism of the Iraq war ramping up at this exact moment? What good can it do the elections? If you care about 27 million Iraqis tasting freedom for the first time, wouldn’t you do everything you can to make those elections a rousing success, instead of making Iraqis wonder whether the Americans supporting their aspirations would high-tail it out of there? Leaving them, like we did in the gulf war, only to be slaughtered. With Americans in a growing brawl over whether Iraqi freedom is worth the price, who could blame the Iraqis for throwing in the towel and not voting?

Worse, leaving freedom-loving Iraqis to twist in the wind also leaves us without a coherent strategy for fighting the war on terror. President Bush’s larger strategy goals always have been well-known (contrary to his critics’ ill-informed attacks), and you could reasonably disagree with them. But few, if any, have explained how immediate troop withdrawal would contribute to a new and better strategy for fighting Islamic fanatics in their jihad against their own people and us. Pulling our troops just over the horizon to Kuwait to constitute a “quick strike” force, as Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) suggests, won’t, because our presence anywhere in Islamic lands is what helps fuel the fanatics’ violent hatred. ~Dennis Byrne, The Chicago Tribune

In spite of his best efforts, Mr. Byrne has hit upon something. Rep. Murtha’s plan isn’t sufficient for the long term for the very reasons Byrne points: “our presence anywhere in Islamic lands is what helps fuel the fanatics’ violent hatred.” Given that admission, it should be obvious to Byrne why a reasonably rapid extrication from the Near East is best for us and for the sake of undermining the appeal of jihadis, which would benefit America and those living in the Near East.

As for the election, it may go off more or less without a hitch, and Iraq may get its elected government. This sort of government may last an entire decade or two, but it will eventually fail or deform into something every bit as tyrannical as what it has replaced. The elections on Dec. 15 will not have made the war worthwhile, nor will they have proven anything about the Iraqis’ capacity for self-government. Any people can freely cast votes and demand things from the government (which is the best case scenario for a ‘working’ democracy in Iraq)–look at Latin America. That does not prevent demagogues and authoritarians from rising to power, and it does not prevent abuses of power. No one could reasonably confuse such successful “democracy” with good government or a desirable political order.

In any event, supposing that Iraqis are now committed to their new government and their “freedom” (and since, according to Mr. Bush, all people yearn to breathe free and so on, they must be committed to freedom), what is the need for Americans to continue risking their lives for the sake of something to which the Iraqis have already dedicated themselves? If they’re so terribly dedicated, so genuinely committed, it shouldn’t matter what follows an American withdrawal–the Iraqi spring, so to speak, ought to be unstoppable.

Unless, of course, Iraqis aren’t actually all that committed or interested in the sort of government we have given them. This is to reveal the lie of the democratists–the lie that abstract “freedom” and the practise of voting are so dear to people everywhere and that they profoundly desire it. In fact, it is fair to say that most people everywhere desire a reasonable degree of security from criminals, peace in the streets and the orderly conduct of affairs. Most people have never dared, with good reason, to hope for much more than that. They could do without paeans to freedom and the veneration of voting booths with their implicit affirmation of individual powerlessness.

Byrne refers to withdrawal being an “unconscionable betrayal.” Who is doing the betraying? Mr. Bush may have promised Iraqis the sun and the moon, but that should not tie the hands of our future policy. Even among the war supporters the invasion was never principally a social engineering project to make Iraq into a democratic state–this was the slop encouraged by the ideologues, the speechwriters who liked to infuse some idealistic rhetoric into the question and the propagandists who wanted to win over some symbolic liberal supporters. For most of “Red America,” this was a war for our security. That war has long since been over. Many scores of American soldiers have died, and many thousands have been wounded since then, and the people have become increasingly fed up with the indefinite and aimless nature of the campaign.

It is because the War Party cannot make American security a credible part of the argument for continuing the war that Americans are growing weary of the conflict. Even the “finish the job” sentiment has been tapped out by the growing popular realisation that the “job” we went there to do was finished before it started. The invasion of Iraq has already been an astonishing and unconscionable betrayal of the national interest of this country, a moral abomination and a contemptuous mockery of her fundamental law. Undoing those mistakes ought to be the priority of every American.