William Buckley: The Waning of the GOP
April 28, 2007 10:45 AM
The Waning of the GOP
By William F. Buckley Jr.
The political problem of the Bush administration is
grave, possibly beyond the point of rescue. The
opinion polls are savagely decisive on the Iraq
question. About 60 percent of Americans wish the war
ended wish at least a timetable for orderly
withdrawal. What is going on in Congress is in the
nature of accompaniment. The vote in Congress is
simply another salient in the war against war in Iraq.
Republican forces, with a couple of exceptions, held
fast against the Democrats attempt to force Bush out
of Iraq even if it required fiddling with the
Constitution. President Bush will of course veto the
bill, but its impact is critically important in the
consolidation of public opinion. It can now accurately
be said that the legislature, which writes the
peoples laws, opposes the war.
Meanwhile, George Tenet, former head of the CIA, has
just published a book which seems to demonstrate that
there was one part ignorance, one part bullheadedness,
in the high-level discussions before war became
policy. Mr. Tenet at least appears to demonstrate that
there was nothing in the nature of a genuine debate on
the question. What he succeeded in doing was aborting
a speech by Vice President Cheney which alleged a
Saddam/al Qaeda relationship which had not in fact
It isnt that Tenet now doubts the lethality of the
terrorists. What he disputed was an organizational
connection which argued for war against Iraq as if
Iraq were a vassal state of al Qaeda. A measure of
George Tenets respect for the reach and malevolence
of the enemy is his statement that he is puzzled that
Al Qaeda has not, since 2001, sent out suicide
bombers to cause chaos in a half dozen American
shopping malls on any given day. By way of prophecy,
he writes that there is one thing he feels in his gut,
which is that Al Qaeda is here and waiting.
But beyond affirming executive supremacy in matters of
war, what is George Bush going to do? It is simply
untrue that we are making decisive progress in Iraq.
The indicators rise and fall from day to day, week to
week, month to month. In South Vietnam there was an
organized enemy. There is clearly organization in the
strikes by the terrorists against our forces and
against the civil government in Iraq, but whereas in
Vietnam we had Hanoi as the operative headquarters of
the enemy, we have no equivalent of that in Iraq, and
that is a matter of paralyzing importance. All those
bombings, explosions, assassinations: we are driven to
believe that they are, so to speak, spontaneous.
When the Romans were challenged by Christianity, Rome
fell. The generation of Christians moved by their
faith overwhelmed the regimented reserves of the Roman
state. It was four years ago that Mr. Cheney first
observed that there was a real fear that each fallen
terrorist leads to the materialization of another
terrorist. What can a surge, of the kind we are now
relying upon, do to cope with endemic disease? The
parallel even comes to mind of the eventual collapse
of Prohibition, because there wasnt any way the
government could neutralize the appetite for alcohol,
or the resourcefulness of the freeman in acquiring it.
General Petraeus is a wonderfully commanding figure.
But if the enemy is in the nature of a disease, he
cannot win against it. Students of politics ask then
the derivative question: How can the Republican party,
headed by a president determined on a war he cant see
an end to, attract the support of a majority of the
voters? General Petraeus, in his Pentagon briefing on
April 26, reported persuasively that there has been
progress, but cautioned, I want to be very clear that
there is vastly more work to be done across the board
and in many areas, and again I note that we are really
just getting started with the new effort.
The general makes it a point to steer away from the
political implications of the struggle, but this
cannot be done in the wider arena. There are grounds
for wondering whether the Republican party will
survive this dilemma.