Die-hard Tolkien fan that I am, I was struck at how breath-takingly stupid an analogy this was, even for Rick Santorum. For one thing, as Lance Manion points out, the forces of good didn’t start the war. For another thing, Frodo in essence failed. He succumbed to the temptation of the One Ring at the last minute and claimed it for himself. Only the greedy intervention of Gollum, still lusting for the Ring, saved the day. (Of course, if Frodo hadn’t shown mercy to Gollum earlier in the story, Gollum wouldn’t have been alive to unwittingly save the day, but that’s another matter.) The most obvious problem with such an analogy, however, is that Aragorn and Gandalf knew that their mission to attack Mordor at the Black Gate (which is what Santorum is comparing to our invasion of Iraq) was very likely a suicide mission. If Frodo didn’t succeed and the Ring fell into Sauron’s hands, rather than being destroyed at Mount Doom, Mordor’s forces, with overwhelming numerical superiority, would have easily wiped the armies of Gondor and Rohan off the face of Middle Earth. (In fact, Sauron’s armies were in the middle of doing exactly that when Gollum fell into the fire at Mount Doom with the Ring, leading to the destruction of Sauron’s fortress Barad-Dûr.) Aragorn knew from the beginning that his armies had no hope of defeating Sauron by force of arms alone and that he was walking right into the meat grinder. But he did it anyway to give Frodo and Sam a chance, however small, of destroying the Ring.
What Santorum seems to be implying by his analogy is that our soldiers in Iraq are on a similarly doomed mission and that they can’t possibly succeed by force of arms alone. If we follow the analogy, they will be destroyed unless something very unlikely happens. The only question is: What is going to save the soldiers in Iraq? There is no One Ring to be destroyed and thus destroy the power of the enemy.