Protesters at the Gate

Last week, America honored the 62nd anniversary of V-J Day. While I celebrated the anniversary from Alaska, one of the battlegrounds of that terrible war, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine who is on active military duty. He informed me that a regular part of his commute to the military base where he works is being greeted at the main gate by protesters. Waving rainbow flags, banging on drums, and chanting, their message invariably demands immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq, an end to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, and a seeming passionate desire for the U.S. Air Force to fund its bomber acquisitions solely through the use of bake sales. Last week, the protesters rolled out a new message: The U.S. should be condemned for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

On Aug. 6, 1945, the B-29 super fortress bomber Enola Gay, piloted by Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., dropped the famous "Little Boy" atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, "Fat Man" found its target on the city of Nagasaki. Approximately 200,000 people were killed in the twin blasts or perished shortly afterward. The effects of the blasts were to shorten the war, prevent an all-out assault on the Japanese home islands by Allied forces, and save countless Japanese and U.S. lives.

I see protesters all the time. They often have similar demands as those heard by my friend. I often wonder if they realize the staggering contradictions inherent in their messages. On one hand, they invariably condemn the ongoing war in Iraq. On the other, they condemn the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The contradiction, of course, is that the alternative to President Truman's decision in favor of bombing was a full-scale assault that would make the daily IED and mortar attacks in Iraq look pastoral by comparison. Is that what these protesters really want? Are they genuinely arguing against cordon and search operations in Baghdad, while advocating sending a million men against the beaches of Kyushu and Honshu?

Of course not. With the exception of deeply principled pacifists, such as Quakers and other religious objectors, most protesters simply do not stop to consider the contradictions inherent in their philosophy. For American presidents, a wartime philosophy must include steadfast commitment to victory. War is a serious business. Any American administration that takes us into one has an obligation to use the resources at its command to tenaciously pursue victory. President Bush can take courage and resolve from Truman's act 62 years ago, and recommit himself to using the resources at his command to winning in Iraq.

Using an atomic bomb is not a necessary ingredient to winning this war. Instead, this war can be won only by rallying American public opinion, placing sufficient numbers of properly equipped soldiers in the theater, and ensuring the Iraqi government makes the necessary and critical strides in taking over its own security. If Truman were alive today, he would tell President Bush to do what is necessary to win the war and, in the process, ignore the self-contradictory protesters chanting at the gate. That is sound advice from someone who knows something about winning a war.