Abandoning Our Friends and Strengthening Our Enemiesby Stephen Littau
Most who are critics of the war in Iraq focus on the consequences of keeping a U.S. presence in place but seem not to be too concerned about what would happened if all coalition forces pulled up the stakes and went home. They believe that America has lost respect from the world community and perhaps that is true. But riddle me this: How much respect will our friends and our enemies have for us if we leave Iraq in the hands of Al Qaeda, Iran, and other warring factions? Regardless of how one feels about how the war started or about the Bush Administrationâ€™s handling of the war, does the U.S. not have some obligation to make things right or at least try? Are we really prepared for the bloodbath which will undoubtedly occur if we were to leave? Or are we just willing to lay the whole mess at the feet of George W. Bush and absolve all those in the House, the Senate (many of whom are running for president), former President Clinton (who was the first to make regime change in Iraq the policy of the U.S. because he too believed in the threat of WMD), and others who initially supported the war but went running for the tall grass when things got tough of any sort of responsibility?
War critics argue that coalition forces are no longer welcome in Iraq but is that really the case? They also believe that if we abandon our bases in the Middle East then suddenly the Islamofascists will no longer want to harm us.
Fredrick W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute makes the arguments that the MSM and others simply are not willing to consider if Iraq were to be abandoned. First, he deals with how our enemies would respond to a precipitous withdrawal.
America has vital national interests in Iraq. The global al Qaeda movement has decided to defeat us there–not merely to establish a base from which to pursue further tyranny and terror, but also to erect a triumphant monument on the ruins of American power. Al Qaeda claims to have defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and its recruiting rests in part on that boast. If America flees the field of battle against this foe in Iraq, al Qaeda will have gained an even more powerful recruiting slogan. That is why al Qaeda fighters from across the Muslim world are streaming into Iraq and fighting desperately to retain and expand their positions there. Al Qaeda does not think Iraq is a distraction from their war against us. Al Qaeda believes Iraq is the central front–and it is. To imagine that America can lose in Iraq but prevail in the war against jihadism is almost like imagining that we could have yielded Europe to the Nazis but won World War II.
Al Qaeda is not our only enemy in Iraq, however. Iran has chosen to fight a proxy war against us there, determined to work our defeat for its own purposes. Iranian weapons and even advisers flow into Iraq and assist our enemies, both Sunni and Shia, to kill our soldiers and attempt to establish control over Iraq itself. This Iranian support is not the result of a misunderstanding that could be worked out if only we would talk to the mullahs. It is the continuation of nearly three decades of cold war between Iran and the United States that began in 1979 with an Iranian attack on the sovereign American soil of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The states of the Arabian Gulf are watching closely to see who will win. If Iran succeeds in driving America from Iraq, Iranian hegemony in the region is likely. If that success is combined with the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon, then Iranian hegemony is even more likely. Dominance of the Middle East by this Iranian regime would be very bad for America. And a nuclear arms race in which Arab states tried to balance against Iranian power would also be very bad for America.
Before you dismiss this as â€œa neocon argument,â€ what do you honestly believe will happen once the troops leave? Do you really believe Al Qaeda is going to go back home and make no attempts to set up a base of operations in Iraq?
Beyond this, what will happen to those brave Iraqis who have counted on the U.S. for the second time? The Kurds felt betrayed after the first Gulf War when the U.S. encouraged them to attempt a coup on Saddam Hussein. The U.S. did nothing to help and many Kurds were killed in the process. Who could blame them for not trusting the U.S. if she were to abandon them a second time? Kagan predicts a much worse scene if coalition troops leave them vulnerable.
For the fact is that the democratic government of Iraq is an ally–and a strong ally–against al Qaeda. Against al Qaeda, Iraqi leaders from government, civil society, the military, and the police are implacable. Even the Sunni Arabs, who once provided al Qaeda safe haven and support, have turned against the terrorists. Thousands of Sunni Arabs in Anbar, Salahaddin, Diyala, Babil, and even Baghdad have reached out to the Coalition and the Iraqi government, offering to fight the takfiris, as they call al Qaeda. Anbar Province, whose Marine intelligence officers had virtually given it up only last year, is now lost to al Qaeda. Thousands of Iraqis have died fighting al Qaeda. When al Qaeda attacks recruiting centers, health clinics, government buildings, and military and police outposts, the Iraqis do not run home. They run back into the battle, to fight harder. But they continue to need our help. If we abandon them, al Qaeda terrorists will barbarically punish those who have opposed them. They may even so terrorize the people that they are able to establish a home in part of Iraq. That is certainly their aim. We cannot allow them to succeed.
[T]o my amazement, we also saw children in those streets who did not glare or run or stand dourly as the occupiers passed. Instead they smiled and waved, asking for candy or just saying hello. Even in the worst places in Iraq, we have not lost the children. They still look to us with hope. They still expect us to deliver them from death and violence. They still believe that we will honor our commitments to their parents.
What will happen if we abandon these children? Death will stalk them and their families. Al Qaeda will attempt to subjugate them. Shia militias will drive them from their homes or kill them. And they and their neighbors, and everyone in the Middle East, will know we left them to their fate. Everyone will know, “Never trust the Americans.” Everyone will warn their children, “The Americans will only betray you.” We will cement our reputation as untrustworthy. We will lose this generation not only in Iraq, but throughout the Middle East. And we will have lost more than our reputation and our ability to protect our interests. We will have lost part of our soul
To those of you who wanted the troops to leave yesterday I ask you again: are you really prepared to deal with the consequences of leaving Iraq prematurely?