No Exit Strategy

I think it's essential, with the ongoing revelations of how the Bush Administration lied to the American people in order to wage war on Iraq, to address the point that Howard Dean has consistently made on the campaign trail - we cannot leave.

Kos has done an excellent job of highlighting US casualties, which puts a human face on eth sacrifice that our troops are making out of duty. That puts the Bush Administration's treatment of our troops all the more despicable. But the fact that American troops are dying (Bush Lied, people died) is NOT an argument for withdrawal! It's a condemnation of the fundamental distrust of the American people by the Administration, and a call to multilateralism and cooperation with the international community.

Many liberals and Bush opponents do not understand this essential reality. For example, Kucinich and his supporters have endless rhetoric about withdrawing US troops immediately, completely oblivious to the obvious consequences.

Steven Den Beste has an excellent essay which describes exactly why we cannot abandon Iraq as we did Afghanistan after the Cold War, that is essential reading. I urge everyone to read this essay in its entirety, but here are some relevant excerpts.

If you have to pay the awful expense in blood and treasure to fight and win a war, then if you're smart you'll try to make sure you never have to fight that particular war again. A war to end all wars probably won't ever happen unless it's one which annihilates our species, but at least you can make sure that you don't have to again fight the foe you just defeated.

You don't want to do what the US did in 1991: wound a foe badly but leave him standing. And you don't want to do what the treaty of Versailles did: create a situation where there's a strong likelihood of further war later.
The new Iraqi government doesn't have to look like ours, but it does have to be secular and democratic, and the new constitution has to guarantee certain fundamental civil rights to the people of Iraq, including in particular the right of free speech, free press and legal equality for women.

But once that's in place, if we then shake the hands of Iraq's new moderate leaders and go home, it could all fall apart within just a few years. In the 1930's in Germany, the Nazi party took power by winning elections within the rules of the democratic system there but then eliminated that democratic system and converted the nation to a dictatorship; extremists in Iraq might do the same. When Iraq is militarily weak after the war, hostile or ambitious neighbors might take that opportunity to invade. If Iraq builds up a military force to defend itself, that could in turn be seen as a threat by other nations there, especially smaller ones like Kuwait. Any of those could lead to war; all of them represent long term failure.

That's why we can't leave. We had to occupy both Japan and Germany for decades, and we're going to have to do the same in Iraq. In a year or two or five, whenever enough progress has been made to permit it, a new constitution will be put into place and the Iraqis will elect their own government, and we'll turn power over to them. But we will need to keep a substantial military force there afterwards for the foreseeable future, on the order of 30 years.
By their presence, our troops will say that the US guarantees that Iraq will remain peaceful, liberal, and democratic, because anyone who says otherwise will have to answer to us. Any threat of invasion by Syria, Turkey or Iran would face our troops and our air power, with all that implies. Iraq will eventually have an army and an air force but it will be far smaller than the one Saddam created, and we'll guarantee that it won't be used by Iraq to invade any other nation or oppress any minority group inside Iraq. And we will guarantee that Iraq's government never comes under the control of extremists who would then scrap the constitution and once again institute a brutal autocracy.

As they say, read the whole thing. That's why Dean is right - and why we are committed to Iraq, now for better or for worse.

No comments: