Something curious keeps coming up in all the primary polling. According to the Pew Research Center, the war in Iraq is the number one issue for Republican primary voters, while “terrorism/security” comes in at number two. Among Democrats the war is also number one, but terrorism/security is number eight. The strangest thing about the poll isn’t the comparative results, but the delineation of the categories.
After September 11, 2001, most Americans understood that the war to eradicate the menace that killed 3000 of our civilians would last many years and involve numerous battles. Less than seven years later, the second of those battles has been wholly extracted from the larger cause and showcased as a Bush administration nuisance for which the candidate with the quickest fix wins a prize.
While the Left’s relentless harangue about administration lies hasn’t managed to end the war, it has removed the fight from its rightful context—that of an ongoing existential struggle with a peripatetic enemy. With the war separated from terrorism, the latter has quietly slipped back into the domain of criminal concerns. The notion that Iraq is part of the war on terror is now such a dead letter that even the pollsters treat them as distinct.
Never mind the fact that Ba’athists had trained thousands of foreign jihadists before the U.S. arrived, or the fact that Saddam was funding terrorists from the Palestinian territories to the Phillippines; if the left were simply to take their own charges seriously they’d have to concede that the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror. For years they’ve said that the fighters in Iraq are foreign terrorists, not Iraqis.
At least Republican voters think Iraq and terrorism rub up against each other. The seven-place gap in the Democratic agenda is a dangerous indication of how a President Clinton or Obama may react to Iran and threats beyond.