Long Hauling in Iraq

Iraq is a mess. Today before the Senate Armed Forces Committee, General John Abizaid, head of the US Central Command, said that the sectarian violence in Iraq is “probably as bad as I have seen it,” and that civil war is “inevitable” if major changes are not made in the current state of affairs. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld faced serious questioning on the part of a number of senators, including Hillary Clinton (D-NY), who asserted that Rumsfeld of presided over a “failed policy” in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date as many as forty thousand Iraqi civilians have died since the US deposed dictator Saddam Hussein three years ago, according to this website of questionable authority. Over 130,ooo US troops are currently deployed in the region, and there is talk of augmenting that number. So it is clear that we are in a mess there, mostly as a result of sectarian violence. Abizaid claims that the majority of Arabs do not want extremism, and he is probably right. It does not take a majority of extremists, however, to make life very miserable on their opponents and capture daily headlines.

So for months now, Democrats and now even some Republicans have been calling for an immediate pullout of American troops from Iraq. At least, they want a timetable for withdrawal.
And I am tired of hearing it.

The reason this is a bad idea is not because of an imperative that Americanism must triumphantly be established in Iraq. I see it as a bad idea from more of a realist perspective. What would happen if America pulled out? First of all, America would face international humiliation much worse than any it already faces. Its influence internationally would be marginalised for some time to come. Many of our National Guard would return to civilian life, but a large number of American troops would remain in harms way as they would likely be redeployed to a number of international hotspots as part of peacekeeping missions that currently the US must op out of due to lack of manpower. Liberals could gloat about how they righted the wrongs of Bush, Rumsfeld, et al, then take the helm of a badly weakened nation.

We have seen that concessions given to terrorists do not keep them at bay; instead they pounce on these perceived weaknesses. Most recently we have seen this as Israel withdrew from occupied territory in Lebanon in an effort to promote peace. As we know they were rewarded with attacks from Hizballah. In much the same way the US likely would face an increased threat of another terrorist attack. Terrorism would still wreak havoc internationally; there just wouldn’t be a war on it. Remember terrorism is an offensive war, not a defensive war; so retreat does not equal peace.

In Iraq, the consequences would be devastating for the Iraqi population. It is likely that the new government democratically elected by the Iraqi people would soon be overrun by extremists, which even now probably have a bit of a military advantage over the Iraqi Army. The extremists would probably form a para-governmental organization with a very similar flavor to that of Hizballah (if a branch of Hizballah itself was not exported to Iraq). This organization would benefit from strong support from Iran, which would probably tip the balance of power in its favor. Several years of civil war would follow, and perhaps the US and others might get involved again in some capacity. One can only speculate how such a war would play out, but it is unlikely that any of the possibilities would be desireable.

Extrapolation of that trend to the rest of the Middle East and indeed to the world makes the picture no prettier. But I think it is a very reasonable guesstimate. And keep in mind, I have left out the Iranian nuclear issue and the North Korean nuclear issue, both of which are interrelated and interdependent from reports I have addressed elsewhere on this blog.

If the US is to stay the course in Iraq, it likely will for some time serve little more that to play the role of the finger holding back the dike until a better strategy is devised. Terrorism is a new threat posing new challenges; and sadly the free nations of the world for the most part are behind the curve when it comes to learning how to combat it. One can but spectulate, but it seems the US can only get better at this sort of combat. Of course the Iraqis must increasingly take up responsibility for any of this to work. I think they will over time. But it is important to see that this is simply not a war that can be won overnight unless some dramatic compromise is reached between the largest factions in Iraq . Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace captured that effectively today when he said “Shiite and Sunni are going to have to love their children more than they hate each other.”

The victory in Iraq will be a hard-fought one, no doubt. Losses there are already above what many considered acceptable for victory, and sectarian violence is at an all-time high. But the price America will pay by giving up now is much greater. For that reason I say it is irresponsible for a congressman in opposition of the war to call for an immediate withdrawal. These crys are nothing more than political pandering by officials up for reelection this fall. Like so many modern congressmen, these spineless representatives are but demagogues more interested in reelection than truly seeking the best interest of their constituency. And it is clear that of the two evils we face in Iraq, the evil of early withdrawal is the greater, and while it might help one win election this fall, it will not serve America’s best interest.