General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker help the Illinois Republican Congressional delegation do its job

It may have happened, but I don’t remember reading that during the Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman visited Capitol Hill before he won in the Shenandoah Valley – or that General Sherman testified in front of a House Committee before he took Atlanta in 1864.

Likewise, I don’t recall reading about General Dwight Eisenhower having to do the same during the dark days of 1943. Something tells me our political leadership did their job back then so our military leaders could do theirs.

As General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified yesterday in Washington, D.C., I imagined our Republican Congressional delegation later in the evening eagerly awaiting the latest polling results. I could guess their thoughts: “Do Americans believe Petraeus and Crocker? If not, what are we gonna do what are we gonna do? How will we ever get reelected next year?”

There are so many things to be said and done by the eight men and one woman who serve Illinois in the U.S. House as Republicans that a list could run ten pages. We’re at war, but you’d never know if from the people claiming to be our political leaders.

We are not going to make progress winning public support for right government action and against wrong government action if our political leaders continue reacting to public sentiment instead of seeking to form it.

Victory won’t happen unless our Republican members of Congress join the fight. Until they do, public opinion won’t go our way. That, in a nutshell, is always the most serious challenge facing the nation. Every time the right leadership makes the right arguments the right outcome occurs.

During World War II the vast majority of Americans understood there were times when war was necessary. They also understood that war meant death – for our enemies, for innocent civilians, and yes, for our own soldiers serving in the armed forces.

If they didn’t understand those things, it’s doubtful they would’ve put up with what happened during the time between December 1941 and August 1945. They certainly wouldn’t have tolerated the approximately 6,500 American military deaths suffered each and every month during that four year period.

Back then, of course, war meant total war, so the casualties came fast and the body counts were high. In today’s relatively limited war in Iraq, where we aren’t carpet bombing civilian populations and attempting to drive a nation into submission, things take longer.

We have arrived where we are at – in Iraq – because we’ve been trying and failing and revising strategies. The situation on the ground has been changing ever since Saddam Hussein was toppled. Circumstances changed on the ground during the Civil War also, as they did in every war the United States has ever fought.

We have arrived where we are at here at home – with the public mood about the war – because our political leadership has failed to do its job. Had Republican members of Congress been using their bully pulpits effectively for the past four-plus years Americans would not have had to rely on a General and an Ambassador to properly explain what’s really happening.

While President George W. Bush as Commander in Chief holds primary responsibility for making the public argument, Congress is a co-equal branch of government. Thus, each and every member of Congress who supports the war shares equal responsibility.

We need our Illinois Republican delegation to join in the fight. The work they do on Iraq will also help provide improvement in their communications skills that can be applied to domestic policy issues as well. In the effort to sell reform, they are front line soldiers whether they like it or not.