Exit: The Costs of Both
"Nitwit pundits and Sunday morning television sages, with
that faked look of thoughtfulness which is their trademark, talk about an exit
strategy – as if it were just one more Mapquest printout. But any such exit
strategy will lead us only on a short path to hell."
So writes Tony Blankley, editorial editor at the Washington Times, adding,
"The essential strategic element in war is to defeat the enemy's will to win,
and accepting anything less than triumph in Iraq will catastrophically
embolden the terrorists."
Blankley raises valid and grave questions. He is saying that, no matter where
one stood on going to war, we went. Now, anyone who thinks we can swiftly exit
Iraq without paying a hellish price is a nitwit.
Blankley is right. Should America pull out now, our enemies across the Islamic
world will indeed be emboldened. The perception of American defeat could
produce a domino effect running down through the sheikdoms of the Gulf into
Saudi Arabia and spreading across the region. Iraq could dissolve into chaos
and civil war.
All this is possible. Indeed, the possibility that Iraq could become a giant
Lebanon for the United States was among the reasons some of us implored the
president not to send our Army up the Euphrates Valley to occupy a city that
was the seat of the caliphate for 500 years.
But if there are risks to a too-rapid transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis, there
are risks to escalating this war. Query: When Osama sees Sunnis rising up to
fight Americans from Fallujah to Baghdad, and Shiites taking up arms in
Karbala and Najaf and marching against America in Beirut in the hundreds of
thousands, is he not rejoicing that we took the bait and invaded Iraq? Has not
the invasion enlarged the recruiting pool for anti-American terrorism?
In the war on terror, a critical objective was to isolate Osama as a mass
murderer who did not represent Islam. Osama's goal was to embed himself in the
Arab and Islamic causes of expelling the infidel Americans from the sacred
soil of Saudi Arabia and ending what he denounced as our persecution of the
oppressed Iraqi people.
Osama sought to conflate his war with the Arab cause. It was in our interest
to keep them separate. But the invasion of Iraq – an attack on an Arab country
that did not attack us and did not want war with us – united and aroused the
Arab world against us, and with bin Laden.
And just as those who argue for an accelerated withdrawal must face up to the
risks, those who favor escalation must consider the risks of trying to attain
a political objective that appears to be receding before our eyes.
If victory means a pro-Western democracy in Iraq that embraces American
values, what is the likelihood of achieving that now, given the raging
hostility in the Sunni and Shiite sectors? Are we closer to the goal than we
were 13 months ago? Or has the fighting of April-May and the moral squalor of
Abu Ghraib pushed our goal even further away?
What will be the final cost in blood and treasure of ultimate victory? How
lasting will victory be once our troops depart, as one day they must? Will the
American people – who read polls where 57 percent of the Iraqis want us out
and more than half think killing our soldiers is justified, and every lethal
attack on a U.S. vehicle brings out a mob in wild celebration – continue to
feel Iraqi democracy is worth Americans dying for?
As Washington Times columnist Terry Jeffrey writes, idealists may dream of a
democratic, secular and pro-Western Iraq, but traditionalists would settle for
an Iraq that has no WMD, does not invade its neighbors and does not collude
Horrible as the monster was, Saddam Hussein, after his rout in the Gulf War,
came close to filling the bill. That is why some of us did not believe it
vital to our security to invade and dethrone him. A nuclear North Korea or
nuclear-armed Pakistan where President Musharraf has been taken down by some
assassin seemed far the graver potential threat.
Still, Blankley has this point: Whether we go, or stay and fight on, we are
going to pay a heavy price, because we went.
Neville Chamberlain is forever condemned for capitulating at Munich. Rightly
so. But by the time he got to Munich, Chamberlain had no good choices left.
His country had lost Italy in the Abyssinian crisis, failed to rearm, failed
to stop Hitler when Britain and France could have chased him out of the
Rhineland in 1936. By late September 1939, they could no longer stop Hitler in
Central Europe without a European war.
No good options were left. Chamberlain could cede the Sudetenland – or declare
war to rescue a Czechoslovakia Britain lacked the power to save. Conclusion:
Chamberlain should never have gone to Munich – and Bush should never have gone
© 2004 Creators
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