Our New National Divide

A fine essay by Goldman Sachs trader and Marine warrior Owen West [son of Bing West] — which concludes

…Monday’s MoveOn.org advertisement, which depicted Gen. Petraeus as a traitor, has been dismissed by Sen. Reid as an inconsequential distraction. But according to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan research group, the ad reflects the growing distrust of a Democratic Party that may be taking cues from its leadership. Last month 76% of Republicans expressed confidence in the military to give an “accurate picture of the war,” while only 36% of Democrats did.

This explains the collective skepticism surrounding Gen. Petraeus’s comments but does not excuse it. For while the country can thrive as a politically divided nation, its ability to defend itself diminishes alongside faith in the fidelity of the military. The unbalanced portrayal of the conduct of our soldiers has done damage enough. To impugn our warriors’ motives as political is thoroughly corrosive and hurts all Americans.

Stepping back from the froth, this week will strengthen the country if our political leaders recognize two things. First they must resist the urge to engage in what traders call “backtrading” and prevent hindsight bias from clouding future decisions. Whether or not the decision to invade Iraq was correct, whether or not our presence created al Qaeda in Iraq or attracted them or emboldened other enemies, we now face the complex task of securing America while living up to some responsibility in Iraq.

Second, they must recognize that a bipartisan course of action must be chosen in the context of a much larger war on terror. If the politicians continue pulling the country apart, this game of chicken will end badly and imperil both Iraq and the U.S. If America were hit tomorrow there would be more finger-pointing than ranks closing. That must change.

Finally, we should remember that Doug Zembiec and Ray Mendoza saw the true face of terror in Fallujah, and it cemented their resolve. Like them, Gen. Petraeus is a guardian whose lifelong calling is service to his country. He knows the enemy. He knows our limitations. And he is telling the truth.