War Is Swell
A vacation guide to the war on terror.
Monday, Aug. 8, 2005
Winners and Losers: Next Monday marks the 60th anniversary of America's victory in World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, America and its allies needed just three years and nine months to win the bloodiest war and defeat the gravest threat to freedom in human history.
What of our time? Nearly four years have passed since the Sept. 11 attacks – and we've not only yet to win the war on terror; we can't even decide what to call it.
What happened? In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, every American felt the same surge of patriotic anger their grandparents had felt 60 years earlier on Dec. 7. We were ready for four years of Liberty Bonds and Victory Gardens. Instead, over the past four years, our biggest collective sacrifice has been watching reality shows on television.
Sixty years ago, FDR summoned all Americans to do their part for the war effort. This year, the Bush White House summoned a Duke expert on wartime public opinion. The administration concluded that the way to maintain public support for a war is to keep telling the people we're winning. So much for that theory.
FDR and Harry Truman had a better way to maintain popular support for a war: actually winning it. That's a novel concept for Americans under the age of 50, who've been conditioned to believe that wars are won in an instant (like Grenada and the Gulf War), or drag on until the American people lose interest (like Vietnam and Iraq).
Thirty Days: Democrats sometimes criticize President Bush for being obsessed with the war on terror. His real problem is just the opposite: he's not obsessed enough. Bush is making history in August 2005 exactly the same way he did in August 2001: by taking a month off for vacation.
FDR worked himself to death during World War II. Woodrow Wilson did the same in World War I. George Bush is in no such danger.
If winning the war against radical totalitarianism were Bush's single-minded obsession, he'd listen to John McCain: stop Washington from spending like drunken sailors, ask every American to give something back, and hire a defense secretary who stands up for his troops instead of blaming them.
Bruce Reed, who was President Clinton's domestic policy adviser, is CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council and co-author with Rahm Emanuel of The Plan: Big Ideas for Change in America.E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his disclosure here.
Photograph of: George Bush on the Slate home page by Tim Sloan/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images. Illustration on the Slate home page by Mark Alan Stamaty.