Here it comes again, look out! Back in the day, during the Vietnam war, those who wanted to stop the war took to the streets, with both peaceful and not-so-peaceful(read: "Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids you kill today!")demonstrations. At that time, both Presidents Johnson and Nixon repeatedly admonished the demonstrators to cease and desist, because such protests gave the Communists the strength to fight on. I think that's true, because we know Ho Chi Minh was aware of the power of public opinion, having lived in France. At the same time, I always wondered what other alternatives there were if you really and truly believed the war had to stop? You could write letters, make phone calls, sure, but what did you do when these didn't work? You go into the streets and try to get the attention of your elected representatives. At least one American President acknowledged this when he told some visitors whose cause he backed privately, but could not support publicly, "Get out there and exert some pressure on me!"
Were you really supposed to just shut up and accept what you believed to be bad policy, not exercise your rights as an American citizen, just because it might hearten the enemy?
Now, today, Defense Secretary Gates declared that the Senate is "emboldening our enemies" in Iraq by passing a non-binding resolution opposing President Bush's troop surge. I think he was channeling the ghosts of both Vietnam presidents in so doing. And these aren't even street protests! This is the Senate, exercising its constitutional responsiblity of advice and consent. Secretary Gates is out of line here.
I don't believe Presidents or any official people are correct in trying to silence protesters, or criticism. It is incumbent on them to avoid the kinds of ill-advised wars and conflicts that bring forth opposition, conflicts that are typically murky, drawn-out and costly. They are perfectly willing to concede the "genius of the people" when those "people" elect them. How about giving those geniuses a listen when they disagree?!