Is it time to "cut and run"?
We are approaching four years since the start of the Iraq war. I was in favor of the invasion and have since supported President Bush's position that we should "stay the course".
However, I have been wavering in my support of the war. This is not because I do not think it was the right thing to do, but because of the execution of the war has fallen far short of what I expected. The most prominent example of what has gone wrong in Iraq can be summed up in one simple question: Why is Moqtada al-Sadr still alive?
The biggest reason we lost the Vietnam War is because we lost the political will to win it. With the Iraq war becoming increasingly unpopular, and with a hostile Democratic Congress prepared to undermine the war effort, I fear that we could lose this war for the same reasons we lost Vietnam.
I hoped that, after Vietnam, that the American people and our leaders in Washington had learned the lesson that we cannot enter a military conflict unless we are prepared to do whatever it takes to win it. It is irresponsible and immoral to tell American soldiers that they must continue to fight and die for a war that the American people and our political leaders will not allow them to win.
Sadly, it was clear a decade ago that we had not learned the lessons of Vietnam, when the Clinton administration decided to cut and run from Somalia rather than hunt down and exterminate the terrorists who murdered American troops and dragged their corpses through the streets of Mogadishu. All of the sacrifices made to stop a man-made famine in Somalia were wasted because of Clinton's cowardice. Worse yet, our hasty retreat emboldened Osama bin Laden and was a contributing factor to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
I agree with Thomas Sowell that President Bush made an error in pushing democracy on Iraq as early as he did. (See Part I and Part II of Sowell's analysis last week.) Before a constitutional republic can truly flourish, there must be law and order. The insurgency should have been thoroughly crushed before we attempted to help the Iraqi people form a new government.
Because this administration did not use the overwhelming force required to break the back of the insurgency, we are now faced with a more difficult task than we would have faced two or three years ago. I believe this war can be won militarily, but this country needs to be prepared to make a significant sacrifice in order to win.
If I was the President of the United States, I would address the American people and present them with two options on how to proceed. First, I would present what I consider to be the best option and ask the American people to support it: we're going to redouble our efforts to wipe out the terrorists and will put bordering nations on notice that they will face severe consequences if they allow terrorists to cross over into Iraq to murder our troops.
I would then ask the American people and Congress if they have the political will to dig in and win this war. If the political will to win is not there, we will begin to phase American troops out of Iraq and find other options to provide security. One possibility would be to cut Iraq up into more than one state, for example. Regional powers would be put on notice that it is in their best interest to keep Iraq from degenerating into chaos.
The American people need to decide whether or not they want to win this war. If we do, then let's win it. If not, it is time to recognize that we made a mistake, clean up the mess as best we can, and get out.