Daniel Henninger’s Wall Street Journal Wonder Land column is the column of the day: “Iraq syndrome has finally arrived.” Henninger writes:
The Vietnam Syndrome, a loss of confidence in the efficacy of American military engagement, was mainly a failure of U.S. elites. But it’s different this time. This presidency has been steadfast in war. No matter. In a piece this week on the White House’s efforts to rally the nation to the idea of defeating terrorism abroad to thwart another attack on the U.S., the AP’s Nedra Pickler wrote: “But that hasn’t kept the violence and unrest out of the headlines every day.” This time the despondency looks to be penetrating the general population. And the issue isn’t just body counts; it’s more than that.
The missions in Iraq and Afghanistan grew from the moral outrage of September 11. U.S. troops, the best this country has yet produced, went overseas to defend us against repeating that day. Now it isn’t just that the war on terror has proven hard; the men and women fighting for us, the magnificent 99%, are being soiled in a repetitive, public way that is unbearable.
The greatest danger at this moment is that the American public will decide it wants to pull back because it has concluded that when the U.S. goes in, it always gets hung out to dry.
Two major military reports will come out soon on the Haditha incident, and no one will gainsay justice if that is required. But the atmosphere around this event is going to get uncontrollably manic, and that will feed the dark, inward-turning sentiments already poisoning the country’s mood over issues like the immigration debate.
Good for Democrats? Don’t count on it. After this, the public appetite for a Democratic president’s “humanitarian” military intervention in a Darfur or East Timor will be close to zero.
One suspects that U.S. troops were party to some awful events in the Pacific and European theaters of World War II, all gone in the mists of history and the enemy’s defeat. Not now. Gen. Chiarelli’s magnificent “99.9%” notwithstanding, it’s the phenomenon of the so-very-public 0.01%–at Abu Ghraib, on an Afghan street, at Haditha–that is breaking America’s will this time.