Day after day, since we went into Iraq, the mainstream media has inundated the public with the same sort of slanted, biased coverage of the war that you’d have expected to get from Pravda at the height of the Cold War. They’ve been excessively negative and hysterical. They’ve demonized the troops, been soft on the enemy, and deliberately revealed classified programs that have probably led to the deaths of American soldiers. Indeed, just about the only way the performance of the MSM could be worse would be if they followed the lead of liberal stalwarts like Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore, who have openly spoken of the terrorists fighting our troops in Iraq as "freedom fighters" and "Minutemen." That’s why, when the American public has been left to drift in this sea of gloom, it’s worth taking a few moments to put things into their proper perspective.
To begin with, we’ve heard plenty about the difficulties caused by going into Iraq, but what about the positives? We’ve removed an anti-American dictator who supported terrorism, had ties to Al-Qaeda, had over 500 WMDs, was planning to build more WMDs, and per Vladimir Putin, may have even been preparing to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States.
Furthermore, thousands of terrorists — including the now deceased Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — who might have otherwise been plotting to murder Americans here in the U.S., went to Iraq to fight our troops instead. That may be tough on our soldiers, but it’s better to have terrorists fighting Marines in Iraq than fighting unsuspecting stewardesses, elementary school teachers, and bus drivers here in America.
Then there are the other changes that likely would not have occurred had Iraq not been a catalyst. If not for the invasion and the aftermath, Libya would likely still have weapons of mass destruction, Syria would still be occupying Lebanon, and it’s highly unlikely that we would have seen Arab nations actually condemning Hezbollah for starting a war with Israel.
We also cannot forget that sanctions on Iraq were crumbling before the war. So, had we not attacked, it’s entirely possible that Iraq would today be racing against Iran to acquire nuclear weapons while terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi spent his days plotting the next 9/11 from Baghdad with Saddam’s tacit approval.
That’s certainly not a compelling vision of the future. But, has it been worth the loss of so many American lives to transform Iraq? Although any loss of American life is not something to be taken lightly, judging by historical standards, the number of soldiers killed in action during this conflict has been extremely low.
Roughly 2,600 American soldiers have died in more than 3 years of fighting in Iraq. But, as Mickey Kaus recently noted, "6,821 Americans…died to conquer the eight square miles of Iwo Jima."
But, perhaps you think those sorts of numbers are no longer applicable in modern combat. Then, look to Israel’s recent fighting in Lebanon. Israel, a nation of about 6.3 million people, lost 118 soldiers in just over a month of combat. Since the United States is roughly 47 times bigger than Israel, that means proportionally, Israel’s losses would be the equivalent of the United States losing 5,546 men in a single month of fighting.
If you want to really bring home how light our losses in Iraq have been, then you only need consider the fact that we’re losing considerably less people fighting in Iraq than we lost during peace time in the eighties. For example, in 1981, a year when we lost no soldiers to "hostile action," there were 2,380 military deaths. In 1983, the year we liberated Grenada, there were 2,486 soldiers that died.
It’s always tragic when one of our soldiers loses his life and it’s especially painful for us to see these young kids falling in action in a foreign land. But, the reason we consider it heroic for soldiers to fight for their country is because they’re willing to take that risk. They’re doing a dirty, dangerous job that needs to get done and fortunately, compared to the number of lives lost in past endeavors, the number of soldiers KIA in Iraq has been comparatively small.
Furthermore, our troops are not going to be on the front lines in Iraq indefinitely. In order to win in Iraq, we need to help build up the Iraqi government to the point where they can handle their own internal security with minimal American help. Once the Iraqis get to that point, the terrorists will be in deep trouble.
That’s why the goal of the terrorists has been to get the United States to cut and run before the Iraqi government is strong enough to stand on its own. The thinking has been that if the U.S. were to pull out too soon, it would destabilize the country and give the terrorists an opportunity to raise an army to take over.
But, if the Iraqi government is stable and has a strong military that’s capable of keeping order even without U.S. troops on the streets, the terrorists’ plan won’t work. But, how long will we have to wait until Iraq gets to that point? Well, in mid-June of this year, Iraq’s National Security Adviser, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, laid out a tentative, yet realistic schedule:
"Thus far four of the 18 provinces are ready for the transfer of power — two in the north (Irbil and Sulaymaniyah) and two in the south (Maysan and Muthanna). Nine more provinces are nearly ready.
With the governors of each province meeting these strict objectives, Iraq’s ambition is to have full control of the country by the end of 2008. In practice this will mean a significant foreign troop reduction. We envisage the U.S. troop presence by year’s end to be under 100,000, with most of the remaining troops to return home by the end of 2007."
That’s probably a good, rough estimate of the timeline we’re working on. However, as George Bush understands, we need to give our generals on the ground in Iraq the freedom they need to adjust that schedule, as necessary, in order to guarantee that the sacrifices our troops have made haven’t been in vain. That’s why George Bush has refused to let grandstanding politicians in Washington set a timetable for a pull-out that would inevitably be based on political concerns. George Bush has been saying for quite a while now that, "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." Well, we’re on the back side of the mountain now and it would be exceedingly foolish to declare the whole mission in Iraq a failure just as the Iraqis are rising to their feet.
Moreover, the people who are advocating a cut and run strategy in Iraq are clearly putting politics above the interests of this country, because a failure in Iraq would have enormous and far reaching negative consequences for the United States. If we pull out before Iraq is ready to handle its own internal security, we could quickly see the country collapse into civil war.
If that were to happen, you could see Turkey invade the Kurdish section of Iraq and an Iranian oil grab wouldn’t be a surprise either. Worse yet, you could perhaps see the terrorists raise an army, eventually conquer Iraq, and turn the country into another terrorist state, like Afghanistan before the Taliban was overthrown.
Additionally, seeing America give up in Iraq would embolden our enemies to act aggressively and show our allies that they can no longer count on us. North Korea would take our failure in Iraq as a sign that we wouldn’t be willing to stop their nuclear ambitions. Iran would receive the same signal and might conclude that it would be an optimum time to start a war with Israel. Even China might take our weakness in Iraq as a signal that we wouldn’t have the will to stop them from swallowing Taiwan. Because of this, giving up on Iraq would be an invitation for more wars to begin all across the globe.
Also, you can be sure that our loss in Iraq would be a huge victory for Al-Qaeda that would boost recruiting, make Muslim nations across the world less willing to act against them, and would convince everyone that America is really a paper tiger that doesn’t have the willpower to stand up against terrorists.
When you consider all of these issues in tandem, you’ll see that what’s going on in Iraq goes way beyond the latest car bombing or exploding IED. The truth is that we are winning in Iraq, with losses that are historically small, and we’re getting closer by the day to bringing our troops home without having to consider any sort of politically driven cut and run strategy that could turn out to be disastrous for our country. That’s something worth keeping in the back of your mind each day as you take in the daily news from Iraq.