Regarding the post-Saddam policing of Iraq, Orrin Judd writes, “the better strategy would have been to withdraw from Iraq quicker and do Syria and North Korea, moving from victory to victory”.
On one level, I agree completely–but once you’ve toppled the regime, then what? Do you leave it to the citizens of that nation to clean up the mess afterwards? And certainly the press, which has consistently portrayed post-Saddam Iraq in the blackest of terms, would paint even bleaker pictures if that were the strategy. So I don’t see what the alternative is to staying in Afghanistan and Iraq and providing as much support as we can for their (very) fledging democracies. As Victor Davis Hanson said today:
You know, right after we had gone to war for almost four years in Europe, and then suddenly, the American people were told hey, wait a minute, you can’t really come home, because you’ve got four hundred Soviet divisions, and these guys are just as bad as Nazis, so here we go again. They weren’t up to that until about three or four years, until they took it seriously. So I think it’s going to be a very hard problem. That’s why I don’t really, I don’t understand the hysteria about Rumsfeld. I can see the political…public relations problems, but Rumsfeld basically said we don’t want to be in Vietnam like ’64-’71. We want to be in Vietnam like ’72-’73, where we have air support, commandos, and a light footprint. And I don’t think people, for all the criticisms of Rumsfeld, are going to do anything differently than what he was doing. There is nothing to do different.
Which may be why:
BAGHDAD, Iraq – President Jalal Talabani said Thursday that he had been assured by Democrat congressional leaders during a recent visit to Washington that they had no plans for a quick withdrawal of U.S. forces.
On the other hand, if I were the head of one of the remaining nations in the Axis of Evil, I’m probably sleeping even better than I have been, after Tuesday’s election.
Update: Ed Morrissey writes that Martin Fletcher of the Times of London boldly goes where the Times of New York wouldn’t dare to tread–he talks to our troops in Iraq:
Fletcher reports that the troops also fear the impact of the new Democratic Congress on the war. They see the elections and the sudden departure of Rumsfeld as an ominous turn in domestic support, not without reason. Many of these men have built relationships with Iraqis, especially in the new security units, and will have bonds of friendship with the Iraqis that will be left in the lurch in the event of a precipitous withdrawal.
It seems to me that any effort to “support the troops” ought to at least involve their input. If they do not see Iraq as a lost cause, then they are right to wonder why so many Americans back home do. While the military will and should remain under civilian leadership, the fact is that the perspective of the soldiers and Marines on the lines have been woefully underreported in the American media, and it’s somewhat embarrassing that we have to turn to a British newspaper to discover this unease at the change in Pentagon leadership.