Ambivalence About Winning The War

A reader writes:

"There may well have been people on the 'anti-Bush left' who wanted the war to fail 'solely to attack the president,' as you suggest. However, let me offer another more nuanced view, giving myself as an example. I've never been a Bush supporter, and could easily be counted as 'anti-Bush.' But I'm not anti-Bush just for the thrill of it. I have what I believe to be good reasons, among them many that you yourself have noted over the course of the last couple of years.  What has scared and outraged me perhaps more than anything else about Bush is the extent to which he has followed a 'narrative' that is simply not supported by any empirical evidence and, more importantly, that he has apparently not been particularly interested in empirical evidence or expertise, period. It's as if the discussion about the Iraq war, and how to wage it, has been a private conversation between Bush and his Maker (with Rumsfeld and Cheney chiming in).  I really don’t care what Bush's religious beliefs are, as long as he doesn't run the country and wage wars according to those beliefs alone, unencumbered by empirical facts or the opinions of experts. But that appears to be precisely what he's done. 

Now, tens of thousands of deaths and billions of dollars later, Iraq is on the verge of civil war. And so, I've found myself actually ambivalent about how this war turns out. On the one hand, of course I want the United States to succeed. The potential consequences of losing the war in Iraq are horrendous. But on the other hand, I worry that if we finally do succeed in Iraq, Bush and his 'base' will conclude that, yes, if they just 'listen to God,' (and no one else), things will turn out just fine. And that conclusion, I fear, could be worse for this country than losing this war. I feel like I’m weighing two great potential catastrophes one, a failed state where Iraq used to be; and the other, a United States 'cut loose' from its traditional basis of rational assessment and empirical evidence, 'guided' by a president who thinks the rest of us should just 'trust him,' since God is whispering directly into his ear. I honestly don't know which is the greater catastrophe. Hence the odd ambivalence about how the war ends."

This, I think, is the consequence of the Rovian conflation of politics and religion. It corrodes a democratic polity like acid. It turns patriots into people ambivalent about their country's success. The great challenge for liberals but especially conservatives today is how we can best rescue our secular politics - and sincere faith - from the theocratic poison that has been opportunistically injected into both.