It would be easy to portray Jack Murtha, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid or any of the other wheezy prophets of the Defeatocrat Party as oddities were it not for the fact that their position on Iraq is deeply consonant with what the Modern Democratic Party has believed for 50 years.
The latest Democratic position on Iraq goes something like this: Even though the Iraqis pulled off a stunningly peaceful and successful election on December 15, President Bush still needs to establish benchmarks for the future, informing the American people of precisely what he will do — i.e., how many troops he would demobilize — should certain things happen on the ground in Iraq.
They believe human events unfold in a neat and predictable manner. Call it the Theory of Human Orderliness. The idea is that one can harness the insights of science and the methods of engineering to perfect societies. Theorists believe sound plans can impel people to behave in an ordered manner — like asteroids tracing their paths through the void.
Thus, John Kennedy launched a war on poverty, asserting in his Inaugural Address that we had it within our power to vanquish hardship and want. Within years, the government began dumping untold billions into like-minded efforts to clean the air and water, provide health care for all, and ring in an era of manageable economic growth and prosperity.
The only flaw in the Orderliness Hypothesis is that it doesn't work if people are present. The war on poverty looked great on paper. It failed miserably in real life. Air-cleansing regulatory schemes looked great in computer models, but failed abysmally in reality. Centralized health care boasted of chalkboard elegance, but is breaking the bank right here, right now. The myth of managed affluence collapsed with the Berlin Wall.
And yet, failure has not altered Democratic thinking an iota. John Kerry boasted dozens of times in his debates with George W. Bush that he had a plan — for everything: dental care, tree planting, street paving, book binding, teen rutting, mass transit, air circulation, steel production ... you name it. He announced these schemes with a sense of triumph, as if having a plan were superior to having a clue.
In resisting President Bush's infinitely variable approach to the ever-shifting situation in Iraq, Democrats have reverted to form. The cries for benchmarks and deadlines merely embody their weird faith in plans. Howard Dean unwittingly captured the absurdity of it all when he announced this week the precise number of National Guard units required to subdue Al Qaeda.
You see, there are significant differences between celestial bodies and human beings. Asteroids don't change their minds or behavior for any reason — let alone for myriad reasons. People do.
The mere facts of human cussedness and unpredictability explain why commentators since Sun Tzu have written about the art, not the science, of war. Men are creatures of impulse and will, and almost never behave in accordance with plans (let alone orders).
Democrats have ignored another critical feature of human nature: will. Sheer willpower can motivate troops or demoralize them. If one side has an absolute determination, and the ability to adjust regularly and freely to changes on and around the battlefield, that side can win.
But another kind of will matters, and that is national will. Terrorists don't believe Americans have the stomach to endure combat hardships. They think we will quit. Our ability to prove otherwise will have far more influence on the final outcome than any plan drafted in any office in Washington or elsewhere.
David Bellavia, who won a Silver Star in Iraq and has been recommended for a Medal of Honor, says Murtha and other Democrats ought to apologize to U.S. forces in Iraq for their repeated claims that the Army is beaten, living hand-to-mouth and doomed to defeat.
Yet the Democratic position, far from being an isolated act of political cynicisms, is something far worse and more disturbing. It is a clear signal that the party still hasn't learned the folly of believing more in blueprints than in people.
The recent burst of anti-Bush and antiwar rhetoric marks the advent not of another Vietnam, but of another Carteresque interlude. Jimmy Carter underestimated the prowess of American workers, fighters and entrepreneurs. In so doing, he all but destroyed his party, handing history's mantle to Ronald Reagan. If nothing else, Jack Murtha's ascent to stardom proves that Democrats, having learned nothing from history, intend to repeat it.