"It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it."
After seeing the reaction to President Bush’s speech about the surge, I think it’s fair to say that people have become irrationally pessimistic about Iraq. In fact, it’s gotten so out of hand that this may be the only war in American history where the troops in the field getting shot at every day have a higher level of morale than the people who are sitting at home watching the war on television.
But, that’s exactly why the troops in the field do have higher morale than the American people: they’re not being exposed daily to a mainstream media that couldn’t be any more biased or pessimistic if they were on al Qaeda’s payroll. Practically since the day that the war started, the media has been engaged in a non-stop, never-ending campaign to convince the American people that Iraq is “unwinnable”. Here in North Carolina, they used to say that, "The only man who ever stopped Michael Jordan was Dean Smith." Well, the only people who can stop the U.S. military from eventually succeeding in Iraq are the mainstream media.
Of course, Congress hasn’t exactly displayed much leadership either. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that many of the Republicans in Congress are hesitant to support the surge because it’s politically unpopular while almost all of the Democrats oppose it not only for the same reason, but because they’re worried it might actually work and spoil the 2008 elections for them.
You may think that’s being too harsh on the Democrats, but this talk about a non-binding resolution expressing their disapproval for the surge shows that this war is nothing more than a petty political issue to them. If the Democrats were sincere and thought we were sending troops to die in a futile effort, why aren’t they trying to cut off the funds for the war? On the other hand, if it’s not futile, then why try to undercut the strategy just as it’s getting started? If they cared about the troops in the field and put the war above mere politics, they certainly wouldn’t be behaving like this.
Along those same lines, Bush is often accused of cavalierly throwing the lives of American troops away, but I’d say the opposite is actually true: many of the current opponents of the war seem to be very cavalier about rendering meaningless the sacrifices of our troops in Iraq due to little more than a shift in the political winds.
That’s despite the fact that one of the best things about Bush’s plan is that within a year, we should finally have an excellent idea of whether we’re going to be able to win or whether the Iraqis just aren’t going to be able to maintain the democracy we’ve helped them build. If the Iraqis say, "No, we’re going to let the Shia militias run wild," or they are unwilling or unable to supply anything near to the needed number of troops, or they’re not even close to being able to take over the policing of the country by November, those will be clear signs that it’s probably about time to pack it up. On the other hand, if we are able to significantly cut down the violence, the Iraqis meet the benchmarks Bush has set for them, and they’re able to handle their own day to day policing by November, a significant number of our troops will be able to come home and the casualties for the troops remaining in Iraq to handle logistics, special forces, etc., will drop through the floor. Moreover, we’ll have a democratic government in Iraq that can handle its own internal security with minimal help from the U.S.
What’s not to like about that plan?
It won’t work. The President and our top general over there now, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, certainly seem to think it will. In my book, that makes it worth a shot.
More of our soldiers will be killed. Yes, they will. But, if we leave now, we’re throwing away the sacrifices that our soldiers have already made. If it was hopeless, that would make sense, but it’s not. We have a shot to win and once you get in a war, nothing you have to do to achieve victory is worse than losing it.
It’s unpopular. Are we basing military strategy on opinion polls now? Is that really a good idea? If Abe Lincoln had paid attention to the polls, the North would have lost the Civil War.
We’re going to be there forever. This is the last, best shot we’ve got in Iraq. If it fails, I fully expect that enough Republicans will side with the Democrats in 2008 to allow them to cut off the funds for the troops. On the other hand, if it works, then we’re likely to have a significant number of troops coming home by early 2008 and we’ll have victory within our grasp.
It would be easier to just bring the troops home. The consequences of losing to the terrorists in Iraq would be enormous. It would embolden our enemies, including al Qaeda, to launch attacks on American interests because they’d think we are weak. More nations in the Middle East would cooperate with Iran and al Qaeda because they’d view us as too weak to protect them. As a matter of fact, we’d get significantly less cooperation in the war on terrorism almost across the board. Furthermore, we could see invasions of Iraq by its neighbors, a REAL civil war in Iraq, al Qaeda carving out a state within a state in Iraq, and millions of Sunnis could end up dying in a genocidal purge. We had arguments over whether removing Saddam made us more or less safe, but there is absolutely no doubt that losing in Iraq will make us less safe.
This is going to be our final chance to win the war in Iraq, deal a major blow to al Qaeda, and preserve a free society for 25 million people that can serve as an example to nations across the Middle East. There are no guarantees of victory in this war or any other, but if any plan deserves to be given a fair chance to succeed, this is it.