Thursday, August 25, 2005

Win or Get Out?

The Moose considers the withdrawal option.

It is very clear that the American people are losing faith in the President's conduct of the war. It is with good reason that Administration has suffered a loss of trust. They have mishandled the war and have not leveled with the American people. The Administration has exploited the war for its political purposes and demanded sacrifice only from our brave troops and their families.

Above all, America is losing confidence that the Administration has a strategy for victory. That sentiment is expressed in the words "Win or get out." Some on the left subscribe to the latter and have given up on the former. An American unilateral withdrawal at a date certain is their solution. That is just another way to concede defeat and raise the white flag.

But what is victory - or at least not defeat? American troops and the Iraqis must restore order so that the Iraqis can build a semblance of a flawed, democratic government. As the current deliberations over the constitution demonstrate, there will be a continued danger that this government could devolve into some form of an Islamic Republic. Success is by no means guaranteed - ultimately the outcome will depend on the strength and efforts of genuine Iraqi democrats.

However, we should not abandon the eight million Iraqis who voted last January at this critical moment. We cannot walk away from the Marsh Arabs, Kurds, and Iraqi democrats a second time. That is not a democratic position. It is not a progressive position. And it is not a humanitarian position.

From the beginning, it would have been wise to have followed General Shinseki's advice to have sufficient troops - but that moment has passed. This President and the Republican Party are now paying the political price for this lack of accountability and incompetence. For the next three years, however, we are stuck with this President as Commander in Chief. The President should replace Rumsfeld - McCain would be a bold replacement that would help build confidence. We must find new and innovative ways to prepare the Iraqi police and military to assume responsibility for their defense. Our European allies should be pressed to provide training for the Iraqi defense and police forces.

That approach might not be satisfying to the opponents of our continued presence in Iraq - there is no magical solution at this point - but the anti-war forces must also take responsibility for a timed withdrawal. That would be sending the message to Zarqawi that he and his Baathist Fascist death squad allies just have to hold out a little while longer and they will eventually prevail. While some withdrawal proponents suggest that a time certain for the U.S. to leave would force the Iraqis to assume their own defense, it would more likely be viewed that the U.S. is acknowledging defeat and that momentum is on the side of the insurgency. The writing will be on the wall for the average Iraqi to see that the U.S. is capitulating.

The consequences of withdrawal will be devastating - a guaranteed civil war, the massacre of thousands, instability in the Middle East, a creation of a terror state and the eradication of American credibility. It would be a complete betrayal of the millions of Iraqis who risked their lives to vote in a democratic election last January. In short, America would completely abdicate its moral responsibility . Unlike Vietnam which was of dubious strategic significance, Iraq lies at the heart of the terrorist threat to America. A failed state in that region could have catastrophic ramifications - perhaps even resulting in another invasion.

Here is a thought experiment for withdrawal proponents - if Kerry was President today, would he support a timed withdrawal? Certainly no President would want his hands tied in that manner.

The truth is that America will withdraw if the situation does not improve in the next year and a half. The patience of the American people is not endless and the politics would dictate a withdrawal if there is not progress.

During the Kosovo conflict, many Republicans allowed their blind hatred for a Democratic President to cloud their judgment about national security. As much as we oppose the policies of this President and Administration, we must not allow our country to suffer a catastrophic defeat that will have implications for years to come.

The opponents of the war have a strong argument when they assert that the Administration has made Iraq the front line in the war against terror that it wasn't before the invasion. If that is true, it is particularly unconscionable that we will hand Zarqawi and his forces a triumph. Our enemies certainly comprehend the stakes in this front line battle. So should we.

Things are bad in Iraq, but they could and will become worse if America leaves prematurely. Supporters of this war bear a responsibility for the current crisis. And proponents of a premature withdrawal should not deceive themselves that they could become culpable for a moral and strategic disaster of catastrophic proportions.
-- Posted at 8:29 AM | Link to this post | Email this post