Ira Smolensky


Stern resolve, sound judgment


       Once upon a time, in a move all too indicative of its unsurpassed hubris, the Bush administration sought to adorn the current misadventure in Iraq with the moniker of, “Operation Infinite Justice.”

        The author of this grandiose (actually, downright foolish) designation was, no doubt, a White House speech-writer who, as a child, had seen one Ali-Baba movie too many and thought he was paying great homage to the Koran.

       In any case, the label was soon discarded when Muslims and other pious souls protested that infinite justice was the province of God rather than sinful humans.

       As it turns out, the nomenclature was two-thirds correct, as we find ourselves bogged down in what could accurately be called “Operation Infinite War,” a condition which clearly (and tragically) is well within the capabilities of humanity.

       And now, once again, the Bush administration is trotting out the issue of our national “resolve.”

       True, the war was begun under false pretenses.  True, the job was botched by our fearless leaders.  No matter.  We must keep on fighting in order to show that Americans are not lacking in the resolve to finish what we start.

       And one can certainly sympathize.

       As they say: no guts, no glory.

       Did Napoleon and Hitler call off their invasions of Russia just because there was a little nip in the air?  No way.  Did Mao call off the Great Leap Forward just because a fifty million Chinese felt slightly peckish?  Certainly not.  Did Custer call off the operation at Little Big Horn because the natives were a little restless?  Not a chance.

       These men were brimming with stern resolve.

       And they all got their behinds kicked.

       They got their behinds kicked for one simple reason: stern resolve is no substitute for sound judgment.

       The Bush administration has us in a terrible pickle in Iraq because, in this case, stern resolve minus sound judgment has led to quagmire, just as many war critics predicted.

       Yet I do believe that, in crucial ways, the national resolve is being tested and that we are failing. 

       Take the issue of education.  In his State of the Union Address, the president made only token reference to No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  That law—or, rather, the purpose behind it-- is at least as important as the war in Iraq and even the overall war on terror.  Yet, despite the president’s lip service, countless children are being left behind every single day. 

       True, there are no daily casualty reports or patriotic funerals in the war to educate all our kids.  But lives are being wasted, nevertheless, and there is no evidence that we will make meaningful progress without a more sustained effort than we have so far demonstrated.

       As one who rues our lack of backbone in finishing “the war on poverty” begun in the ‘60’s, I unambiguously support stern resolve when it comes to educating all our children, renewing our inner cities, and seeing that every American shares meaningfully in the American Dream.

       What red-blooded American could possible want to cut and run from the challenge of achieving equality?