This post began as a response to some of the comments on this post. The commenters there believe that the Left will oppose our war against Islamic fascism no matter what. I think that may be true, but I want to expand on it to argue that even if it is true (and I don’t think the other commenters disagree), at worst the anti-war Left will be able to delay rather than stop our war effort.
Here are some hypothetical statistics about the composition of the US population. I made them up, but I assume that the real numbers are not so much different than these as to invalidate my argument:
Group 1: People who want us to do whatever it takes to win the war: 25% of US voters
Group 2: People who will oppose the use of US military power no matter what: 25% of US voters
Group 3: People whose opinion re the use of US military power depends on the extent of the external threat that they perceive: 50% of US voters
So, assuming that our elected representatives are sensitive to voter sentiment (and I think they are), and depending on the actual percentages of voters who fall into Groups 1 and 2, some majority of the swing voters in Group 3 will decide what we do as a nation. Maybe the decisive proportion, as a fraction of all voters, is as low as 20% or as high as 40%. I doubt that it is higher.
Under current circumstances, with a lot of recent bad news, anti-war media and bureaucracies, and an administration that has made a lot of mistakes and is inept at explaining itself, there appears to be enough skepticism among undecideds about the war and/or the competence of our leaders as to preclude new initiatives (e.g., attacks on Iran).
But this current stasis is based on a situation in which most of the variables are skewed in an anti-war direction. Voter opinion could remain marginally anti-war, or become even more anti-war, in the event of, say, a Shiite revolt in Iraq. But other conceivable events — such as a major terror attack in the USA, another attack on Israel or an Iranian/proxy campaign against Allied ships near the Horn of Africa — could flip the domestic opinion balance toward the pro-war side. And anti-war sentiment at home may encourage our enemies and make additional attacks on us more likely. So it seems likely, unfortunately, that majority public sentiment in the USA will eventually swing back towards being pro-war no matter what we do. And the change could come rapidly, as only a small subgroup of voters needs to change its position. (Of course I am assuming that we really do have enemies. I think that’s a safe assumption.)
War with Iran appears increasingly likely since the recent Lebanon debacle. This war will be more destructive the longer we put it off, and especially if we cede the initiative to our enemies. The tragedy is that our big media and many Democratic politicians, for mainly domestic political purposes, have been sowing fears among voters about the wisdom of the overall US war effort, and the Bush administration has been inept in assuaging those fears. Thus we may have to suffer an inevitable second or even third Pearl Harbor (if 9/11 was the first), or something even worse, before we as a society, under Republican or Democratic leadership, regain the political will to defeat our mortal enemies.