And “what in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?” Claude Rains as Capt. Louis Renault asked Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) in the 1942 classic movie of the same name.
“My health,” Bogie replied. “I came to Casablanca for the waters.”
“The waters. What waters? We are in the desert.”
“I was misinformed.”
While I wouldn’t go too far in comparing to a movie the life-and-death decisions a president must make, there is truth in that dialogue that critics of the Bush administration’s prosecution of the war on terror fail to fully appreciate. While we may, indeed, have been drawn to Iraq because of some misinformation, it was misinformation in a Bogie sort of way.
Yes, no weapons of mass destruction were found and initially the Iraqi people resorted to in-fighting instead of rallying behind American forces.
But there were calculated benefits to the war.
First, and not to be underestimated, we cut short the reign of mass murderer Saddam Hussein.
Second, Iraq tangibly set the tone for an aggressive response to terrorism on American soil. We took the war to them, and Islamic terrorists responded by flocking to Iraq. We fought them there, and beat them there. In the process, the Iraqi populace turned against the outside Islamic terrorists. If President-elect Obama will allow the fruits of our sacrifice to fully take hold, Iraq will emerge a good and stabilizing force in the war on terror in the Middle East.
That’s the great hope of the Bush strategy.
While we may take issue with this tactic and others (say, Gitmo, for instance), no one can take issue with the fact that the United States has remained free of terrorism post-9/11. That is a fact. Bush haters may call it more lucky than good. I’ll take it either way and go one better — I hope it continues into the Age of Obama.
Obama, of course, won election on the premise that Iraq was a mistake and a distraction from the “real” war. But he also said he’ll vigorously prosecute the war with a focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan and wherever it takes American forces.
While I think he fails to appreciate the brilliance of Iraq, I hope he will yet recognize the value of a stable Iraq and honor the sacrifices made there by withdrawing slowly and carefully.
Look, ladies and gents, we live in a dangerous world.
One need only pay attention to the current acts of terrorism in India to know that we have capable and vicious enemies. Some of our enemies are unknown to us until the day they start killing us. The idea that a similar band of Islamic terrorists could sneak into the United States, as they did in Mumbai last week, and open fire in hotels, restaurants or casinos is one that must weigh on the Obama administration, as it did with the Bush administration.
As Bush proved, the best defense to this kind of enemy is a relentless offense. I hope Obama gets that concept. And if anybody asks him why he’s still in Iraq or Pakistan or India or Casablanca for that matter, my advice is do what President Bush did: Just give ’em that Bogie stare and say:
“I was misinformed.”
Sherman Frederick (firstname.lastname@example.org) is publisher or the Las Vegas Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media.