Defeat in Iraq?
There is a growing call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq with the assumption that the ensuing chaos would be manageable. A few reminders.
1. 1975 Vietnam is not the proper referent. By 1973 essentially all American ground troops were gone from Vietnam. The 1975 collapse was a defeat of the South Vietnamese military, in part brought on by cutbacks in US air and material support. The point is that the US did not suddenly abandon a theater of ongoing operations in the face of enemy aggression. Leaving Iraq with the enemy in control of the battle space would be the first time in our nation’s history that a US military army group had abandoned an entire battlefield (a Somalia or Beirut were withdrawals of only a few hundred troops). Indeed the last time an entire army group lost such a theater was probably the Philippines in 1942 when thousands were killed or captured, and the Philippines lost.
2. There is criticism that nothing good came of our initial success in the Middle East following the removal of Saddam. One way of ascertaining the truth of that allegation is to withdraw, and then to see what Syria (would it then stay out of Lebanon?), Libya (would it still cooperate with its disavowal of terrorism and WMD?), and Pakistan (would Dr. Khan’s network stay shut down?) would all do.
In fact, a US flight, would send the message to Iran that there is no obstacle to nuclear acquisition, to al Qaeda ‘why stop in Iraq when there is a green light to the Gulf States and their oil wealth?’, to Syria that Lebanon can be reabsorbed, to Turkey to do what it wishes with Kurdistan, to Israel ‘You’re on your own from now on,’ and to the world that America can’t guarantee Taiwan’s safety or stop North Korea’s nuclear proliferation or protect Japan.
3. Democrats said we took our eye off Afghanistan. But if we flee from Iraq, would they then insist on redeploying the 160,000 troops in Afghanistan and engaging in hot pursuit across the nuclear Pakistani border to capture bin Laden’s lieutenants? Or, as we suspect, is the liberal charge that we are neglecting Afghanistan mostly a ploy to criticize operations in Iraq rather than a sincere call for tougher, riskier, and more substantial war making on the Pakistani border?
4. If we get hit again comparable to 9/11, after we have fled Iraq, what would be our response, should we learn that the perpetrators received cash or sanctuary from a Middle Eastern nation? Go back into Iraq to hit the camps in Anbar? Punish Syria or Iran? Or a simple return to cruise missiles? For that strategy, I suggest we all review the 1990s record of such retaliations, perhaps rereading the relevant chapters of Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower.
5. The US military. To do what the New York Times suggests—skedaddle from Iraq now—would destroy the reputation of the US military for a generation. We forget that after Vietnam, there was the failed Iranian hostage mission, the spectacle of the Cambodian holocaust, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, communist inroads into Central America, and flight from Lebanon—all in the gloom of defeat of Vietnam. By 1991 observers were still doubting the efficacy of US arms. Defeat in Iraq would suggest to the world that the US could only be successful in conventional wars that are rarely fought, and utterly paralyzed by insurgencies that are frequent.
I get a lot of letters and emails about writing on the need to establish secure borders and end massive illegal immigration. I have no idea what the significance of capital letters conveys in these frequent emails of hate. Here are two examples.
WELL I CAME HERE ILLEGALLY WHEN I WAS 3 YEARS OLD ,BY THE WAY I’M MEXICAN AND PROUD! I LOVE THE U.S.A YES, I MADE DOCTOR I WORK FOR THE LOS ANGELS ORTHOPEDIC HOPITAL I MAKE MORE MONEY THAN ANY OF YOU CAN IMAGINE BUT I’M NO RACIST LIKE YOU, YES WE ALL KNOW MANY PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD ARE HERE ILLEGALY NOT JUST MEXICANS AND YES MANY ARE NOT THE BEST CITIZENS BUT LOOK AT YOUR LAST NAMES!!! COME ON WHAT R YOU TALKING ABOUT YOU THINK BECAUSE YOU WEREBORN HERE YOU PARENTS WERE NEVER ILEGAL? HUMM WELL MEXICANS,EUROPIANS,AFRICANS,ASIANS, ARE HERE ILLEGALLY. SUCK IT UP GET YOU FAT ASSES UP AND COMPETE WITH THEM DONT YES CRY LIKE LITTLE GRILS. THEY ARE BETTER THAN YOU BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO LICENSES OR DOCUMENTS OR MONEY AND THEY STILL HAVE HOUSES CARS AND THEY STILL EAT OUT GO TO THE MOVIES THE ONLY DEFFERENCE IS THAT YOU FUCKING RACISTS HAVE A 9 TO 5 JOB AT A FANCY OFFICE YOU WEIGTH LIKE 300LBS AND DON’T FUCK EVERY DAY AND MY PEOPLE HAVE TO WORK THEIR ASSES UP WORKING HARD EA!
RLY MORNING OR GRAVEYARD SHIFTS, BUT THEY ARE HAPPY BECAUSE THEY HAVE PRIDE AND JUST TO REMIND YOU THEY ALSO PAY TAXES.
SO PLEASE LEAVE THEM ALONE FUCKING HEATERS.
Here is another eloquent email.
It worries me that you have time to write such ignorant opinions, because that’s all they are,just opinions.You must be a senior- citizen looking for some attention. Look buddy we are all human, except our monster, I mean our President,G.W.Bush. Get over it, you and your ancestors,Emerson,Hitler,Stolin… well you’ll be dead soon, so who cares. Oh yeah you are one of those Americans who believe in god huh? You do not deserve to be called American because we all know that the orinal Americans were the Indians. Don’t think I’m old , I’M 23 YEARS OLD AND MORE CAPABLE OF REASON THAN YOU. PINCHE VIEJO PENDEJO, I ALSO WRITE CHINESE TO BAD YOUR “american” computers can not.
In a recent City Journal response to a New York Times editorial calling for the rapid withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, I mentioned in passing that Wesley Clark had supported the war (http://www.city-journal.org/html/eon2007-07-12vdh.html). That earned a flurry of emails, most of them vehemently angry, denying the general had ever expressed such support for the invasion. In response, consult these quotes taken from the January 19, 2004 National Review Online article by Byron York (http://www.nationalreview.com/york/york200401190949.asphttp)
1. “Can anything be more moving than the joyous throngs swarming the streets of Baghdad? Memories of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the defeat of Milosevic in Belgrade flood back”?
2. “Liberation is at hand. Liberation — the powerful balm that justifies painful sacrifice, eases lingering doubt and reinforces bold action. Already the scent of victory is in the air”?
3. “The operation in Iraq will also serve as a launching pad for further diplomatic overtures, pressures and even military actions against others in the region who have supported terrorism and garnered weapons of mass destruction. Don’t look for stability as a Western goal. Governments in Syria and Iran will be put on notice — indeed, may have been already — that they are ‘next’ if they fail to comply with Washington’s concerns”?
4. “If there is a single overriding lesson [from the campaign in Iraq], it must be this: American military power…is virtually unchallengeable today. Take us on? Don’t try! And that’s not hubris, it’s just plain fact”?
5. “President Bush and Tony Blair should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt”?
6. “Let’s have those parades on the Mall and down Constitution Avenue — but don’t demobilize yet. There’s a lot yet to be done, and not only by the diplomats”?
Recently I gave a talk that got some in the audience a little upset, especially the assertion that a vast majority of Americans supported the war by April 2003, that pundits, save those from the Nation and American Conservative, were heady with glee, and generals such as Wesley Clark had made statements that could fit either defeat or victory.
In truth all that is needed from erstwhile supporters is something other than “they fooled me with lies about WMD (cf. the 22 other Congressional writs for war)” or “my perfect war was lost by their lousy occupation”. Such an honest and understandable exegesis might go as follows: ‘I was for the removal of Saddam and stabilization of Iraq if it could be accomplished through minimal loss of life and financial outlay. But when by sometime in 2004 I realized that was impossible, then I changed my mind, and realized the effort was doomed and the original invasion was not worth the subsequent losses. That happens in war, as we saw in Vietnam.”
I doubt we will get that honesty, however, and instead will continue to hear of the neocon conspiracy, or how a few sneaky Jews hikacked the government from Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell, and Rumsfeld, or how a conspiracy was waged to trick the American people, involving Hosni Mubarak, Tony Blair, Tommy Franks, French Intelligence, the Democratic Party, et al. who were all on record about Saddam’s WMD, or how ignoramuses in the government had no plan at all how to stabilize Iraq after they promised they had and as I expected.