For months, the administration has promoted the elections as a major milestone in its efforts to bring democracy to Iraq and then the wider Middle East and Islamic world. But the continuing insurgency and the inability of U.S. forces to stabilize Iraq almost two years after the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein has forced the administration to redefine the context, goals and role of this first vote.

At this late date, the United States also has no viable options or alternatives other than trying to go forward with the Jan. 30 elections, analysts say.

“I don’t think they’re thinking of a Plan B. What they have is permutations of Plan A: You go for elections, hope for the best and if it doesn’t materialize, you go with whatever emerges — probably a heavily Shiite government,” said Henri J. Barkey, a former State Department Iraq specialist who is now head of Leheigh University’s International Relations Department. “Then you hope that this new government will be smart enough and enlightened enough to make an outreach to the Sunnis.” ~The Washington Post

The Global War on Terrorism will be a long fight. But make no mistake – we are going to fight the terrorists. The question is do we fight them over there — or do we fight them here. I choose to fight them over there.

Some argue that we should treat this war as a law enforcement issue. Some say we should fight a less aggressive war — that we should retreat into a defensive posture and hope that the terrorists don’t attack us again.

Well, my wife Cathy and I are simply not willing to bet our grandchildren’s future on the ‘good will’ of murderers.

I learned long ago that hope is not a strategy. In the years ahead, America will be called upon to demonstrate character, consistency, courage, and leadership. ~Gen. Tommy Franks, Republican National Convention, 9/2/04

For almost three years, those of us opposed to the invasion of Iraq have been browbeaten with such gems as “the costs of inaction may be higher than the costs of action,” variations on the theme of “don’t trust a madman” and, lastly, “hope is not a strategy.” Indeed, the stark alternative in the GOP platform on Iraq was literally, “Trust a madman or defend America.” Leave aside for the moment that Gen. Franks caricatured and distorted the views he was attacking–that is hardly noteworthy at a political convention. What is striking is how often the language of hoping seems to have started cropping up in pro-war discussions of the forthcoming elections and the Iraqi security situation.

The elections themselves will be an ” incredibly hopeful experience,” Mr. Bush tells us. (I should think it will be a terribly nerve-wracking and potentially horrifying experience, given the sheer insecurity of the country.) This comes in response to the serious criticisms from former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft that elections might hasten the onset of civil war. This is classic Bush: vague, uninformed chatter invoking feel-good words such as “freedom,” “hope” and “peace” as an answer to a real problem. There is nothing new in this turn to hope: in spite of Mr. Bush’s incredible capacity for confidence in flawed and demonstrably false propositions, his entire approach to any significant, complex problem is to throw a few tired slogans, a lot of money, and more than a few lives at it and expect it to resolve itself.

So, faced with the increasing disorder and futility of the senseless and immoral war with which this administration has burdened the nation, and confronted with the probability that the elections (worthless as they are) will probably not even be a technical success, the plan seems to be “hope for the best.” Quite frankly, we could have done that two years ago and spared Iraq and our armed forces the death and destruction of this war. Since we now know, and even the government finally admits, there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and there were none for many years prior to the invasion, it is even more painfully obvious that it was not we, the opponents of the war, who were operating solely on a hope and a prayer in the formulation of our views.

Hope itself is a wonderful thing, a theological virtue that is at the heart of living a faithful and God-pleasing life, but it is not a cure to earthly ills by itself. It provides men with the heart and spirit to confront their temptations and struggles, but without the rightly ordered soul and obedient will to make use of this virtue it cannot bear fruit. It is the conviction that God’s design will prevail–it is not a license to act the fool and expect God to deliver one from the folly.

We venerate Fools-in-Christ, but not because they are actually senseless or buffoonish, but because they show us the vanity of the world and represent a higher surrender to the will of God than most people, caught up in the vice of self-esteem, can ever imagine. The foolishness to the Greeks is actually wisdom–this is the great subversion of earthly pretensions by Divine truth. The Fathers do not urge us to abandon foresight, but to not pretend that our foresight alone is in any way sufficient. Instead of this sober path, we see the stumbling of people drunk on their own propaganda and misinformation. We see Mr. Bush trusting in a faulty mechanism of political organisation to work in spite of all obstacles and to serve as the basis for the solution of all of Iraq’s problems. Like any other idol, it is mute and lifeless and will provide nothing to the one who hopes in it. Only a fool would hope in deliverance from such a shoddy process, especially in the midst of a war.

Someone who attends to the consequences of his decisions or worries about the potential pitfalls of a course of action is not despairing of God’s providence, but understands that he must responsibly fulfill his charge if he is to have any hope of success. This is true of those in government more than most, who have such serious charges to keep. Mr. Bush, in his flight from reality, his insipid wishful thinking and his refusal to acknowledge mistakes and setbacks, has not done his duty to keep that charge. The true faithful servant and the true leader alike do not care for their own reputation in the eyes of men, but attend to their tasks and those entrusted to their care with their success and welfare foremost in mind.