Rumsfeld Today:

Today the SECDEF said some things widely being considered an outrage:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Monday opposition to the U.S. President was encouraging Washington's enemies and hindering his 'war against terrorism'. . . .

He said if Washington's enemies believed Bush might waver or his opponents prevail, that could increase support for their activities.

"They take heart in that and that leads to more money going into these activities or that leads to more recruits or that leads to more encouragement or that leads to more staying power," he told reporters traveling with him on his plane.

"Obviously that does make our task more difficult."

There are exactly two things to be said about this:

1) He is, of course, correct on the facts. Public opposition to the war does hearten the enemy. Those who merely disagree on how the war should be fought do not, but those who believe we should really be seeking peace and avoiding war, withdrawing from the fights we are in and refusing to be drawn into more, are in fact advocating the US position that al Qaeda most desires. To the degree that these critics are loud or appear likely to succeed, the war becomes more difficult and, consequently, more dangerous to the warfighter.

2) That's just too bad. In a free society, we accept these costs. The costs are real: an emboldened al Qaeda may engage in attacks it would have avoided otherwise, and may thereby kill soldiers and Marines who might else have lived. Their lives are paid willingly, though, precisely to maintain the freedoms that--in this case--endanger them.

There are other parts of a free society that make it hard to fight war, too. Perhaps the two most prominent are: first, the fact that a large section of Federal authority is invested in the Congress, which is empty of understanding and given to political grandstanding even in a time of war; and, second, that the Executive changes every four or eight years, so that we are not able to maintain a consistent foreign policy in the long term. Thus, our allies can't depend on us to act in a predictable manner, and our enemies can hope to hold out until the next election, when policies may change and key figures be replaced.

All the same, it is this system of freedom that we are fighting for. It is precisely this, in fact, that the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines exist to defend. Mr. Rumsfeld would probably understand that in a week when he hadn't just flown from Washington to Iraq to Afghanistan and now back to Washington. We'll read jet-lag into his comments, and let them pass for now with this mild chastisement.

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