Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

June 2, 2007

Abandoning Our Friends and Strengthening Our Enemies

by 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 Administration’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 “a neocon argument,” 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?

Related Posts:
Is Islamofascism a Legitimate Threat to Liberty?
Peace on the Enemy’s Terms
Placing the Blame Where it Truly Belongs

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  • tarran

    I think that if we leave, Al Queda is finished:

    Al Queda is dependent on fighters coming in from outside the country. Most of those fighters are recruited specifically to fight against Americans.

    Once Americans have left the country, then Al Queda must recruit people to kill their fellow Arabs, which is a much harder sell.

    It is important to note that the U.S. presence frequently contributes to increases in violence rather than decreases it. For a long time, the United States has fought to suppress local militias that were not allied with the central government. In many cases when U.S. troops chase a militia out of a neighborhood, the level of violence spikes because they people in the neighborhood are left vulnerable to attack by outsiders.

    If the U.S. were to pull out, after a short paroxysm of violence, one would see Iraq splinter apart into three semiautonomous regions. Al Queda would, at most, control the central provinces, but its control would be dependent on support from local Sunni clans. Iraqi Sunnis are far less extreme than Al Queda would like. There would be no refuge/harsh Islamic state like Afghanistan: neither the Pakistani government nor the Saudi governemnt would be providing aid (The Taliban received the bulk of their operating funds from Al Queda, Pakistan’s intelligence services, and grants from the Saudi Govt). Al Queda alone would not be able to finance such a government.

    In fact, I think the only groups that are benefitting from our continued presence in Iraq is the Saudi King, Al Queda, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

    The Saudi royal family is encouraging disaffected Saudi youth, the sort that would be happy to assist Al Queda in their fight with the Saudi monarchy to go north and fight the U.S. in Iraq. They do this through having clerics that are on the state’s payroll preach jihad agaisnt the U.S. The United States is essentially killing people that would otherwise cause trouble for the Saudis.

    Al Queda obviously benefits since they can portray themselves as fighting infidels oppressing Muslims.

    Iran’s revolutionary guard benefits because the Iraqi central state is for the most part allied with them. The militias incorporated into the Interior ministry are pro-Iranian. Guys like Muqtada El-Sadr are in fact Iraqi nationalists who barely get along with the Iranians. The Iranians are using the U.S. military to crush their opponents in Iraq.

    To be honest, the continued U.S. presence does not benefit the people livign in the U.S. much at all. It rather works to the favor of groups that are using the U.S. military to do its dirty work for them.

    Granted, the Saudi government has the power to wreck the U.S. economy in a matter of months, and I can understand why when the Saudi King says jump, the U.S. president asks “how high”.

    But our tacit support for Al Queda and Iran’s revolutionary guard is more troubling.

    The problem of what to do with collaborators is a good one. Personally, I am disgusted that the United States does not permit immigration from Iraq. I would be supportive of allowing Iraqis to emigrate freely to the U.S. the way we do with Cuba.

  • Ken H

    Stephen,

    Do you think that if the U.S. keeps its forces in Iraq for ten more years that the situation will materially improve? I don’t. We can’t stop the Iraqi civil war unless our policy is going to be to just kill them all. Only the Iraqis can stop the Iraqi civil war. I don’t believe that the length of time we keep our forces there will materially affect what happens after our forces do leave. This is a consequence of invading Iraq in the first place and should have been thought through before the Bush administration gave the order to invade Iraq – but it wasn’t.

    It is a terrible situation and there will never be a good way out of it.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin

    Stephen,

    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?

    None. As a result of the Iraq debacle, the United States will not be able to wage a serious overseas war due to a lack of popular support at home nor will it be able to use diplomacy to deter potential aggression because of the Iraq defeat. Despite what our non-interventionist friends say, this is not a good thing. China would be free to attack Taiwan, North Korea would be free to attack South Korea, Iran would be free to move into the Gulf Arab states, Venezuela would be free to pursue its regional ambitions in South America, and other thugs and tyrants would be free to move on their own citizens and/or neighbors. The Unitd States would no longer be the world’s only superpower. The world would be a lot less safe, and a lot less free. Eventually, it would come home through disrupted trade and refugee problems and economic disruptions.

    The question is then, who is to blame? Obviously, Bush for incompetently conducting the Iraq War without making sure he had a real case for war. As for the Congressmen who voted for the war and are now against, again under the Constitution, Congress does not conduct war, the President does. They turned against the war because they saw it was being prosecuted incompetently.

    They also believe that if we abandon our bases in the Middle East then suddenly the Islamofascists will no longer want to harm us.

    They’ll be emboldened regardless of the outcome in Iraq. The only question that should be under consideration is whether or not there is any benefit to the United States whether or not to remain in Iraq.

    For the fact is that the democratic government of Iraq is an ally–and a strong ally–against al Qaeda.

    Only because the “democratic” government of Iraq are a bunch of Iranian puppets hellbent on establishing a Shi’ite theocracy. Al-Qaeda, as a Sunni Muslim group, is naturally an enemy; as are the Americans and other “infidels” in Iraq.

    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.

    Those Sunni Arabs against Al-Qaeda are mostly Ba’athists and Iraqi Nationalists. Not too long ago, there were bombing and shooting American soldiers. Once the foreigners in Al-Qaeda are dead and gone (and they are wiping out Al-Qaeda in Iraq), they’ll return to killing Americans and the Shi’ites.

    are you really prepared to deal with the consequences of leaving Iraq prematurely?

    A Shi’ite-Sunni civil war in “Iraq” is in the United States’s best interests as we wage a war against Islamofascism as the Iranians and the Arab states conduct a proxy war against each other. The resulting losses will be on the scale of the deaths in Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon. These will be acceptable losses because as the Shi’ites and Sunnis proceed to kill each other off, they’ll be less inclined to threaten American allies in the region, Israel, and the United States because they’ll be a bit busy.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin

    tarran, since I’ve just kicked Stephen around, no need to spare you from the fun.

    I think that if we leave, Al Queda is finished

    Actually, they’ll probably be finished regardless of our presence. Just read Michael Yon for the details.

    Once Americans have left the country, then Al Queda must recruit people to kill their fellow Arabs, which is a much harder sell.

    Not when those Arabs are Shi’ites backed by Iran. It becomes much easier to recruit when you spin it like that. After all, Al-Qaeda in Iraq has mostly killed Arabs, while Shi’ite gangsters “militas” and Ba’athist and nationalist insurgents have mostly attacked Americans.

    It is important to note that the U.S. presence frequently contributes to increases in violence rather than decreases it.

    And you try to prove this point by the following:

    For a long time, the United States has fought to suppress local militias that were not allied with the central government. In many cases when U.S. troops chase a militia out of a neighborhood, the level of violence spikes because they people in the neighborhood are left vulnerable to attack by outsiders.

    All you’ve proven is that the United States and the Iraqi government does not have enough troops for internal security. It only proves that the war has been conducted incompetently and not enough troops were used.

    If the U.S. were to pull out, after a short paroxysm of violence, one would see Iraq splinter apart into three semiautonomous regions.

    Actually think Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal. Now, Hamas and Fatah are in a de facto civil war for control of a desolate, impoverished strip of land. Iraq will ramp up its religious and sectarian civil war and we’re likely to see a bloodbath along of the lines of Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon.

    In fact, I think the only groups that are benefitting from our continued presence in Iraq is the Saudi King, Al Queda, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

    Substitute Arab governments for Saudi King and you’ve got it. Egypt and other Arab states also send off their Islamic radicals to go get killed in Iraq.

    The problem of what to do with collaborators is a good one. Personally, I am disgusted that the United States does not permit immigration from Iraq. I would be supportive of allowing Iraqis to emigrate freely to the U.S. the way we do with Cuba.

    It’s a bit more complicated than that. Some of the Iraqis who claim to support the United States are well…Islamofascists who are using the US presence for their own gains such as the Shi’ite Islamist parties. There has to be a rigorous process to weed out those who support Islamic supremacism, oppose a separation of mosque and state, and those who are sympathetic to jihadists and the jihad ideology. Any Iraqi who fails this background should be denied entry into the United States. As for those who don’t support Islamofascism, they should be allowed to immigrate into the United States.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Stephen,

    are you really prepared to deal with the consequences of leaving Iraq prematurely?

    To which I pose a counter point:

    At which point is the abandonment of Iraq appropriate ?

    And how do we define victory ?

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau

    Kevin:

    “The question is then, who is to blame? Obviously, Bush for incompetently conducting the Iraq War without making sure he had a real case for war. As for the Congressmen who voted for the war and are now against, again under the Constitution, Congress does not conduct war, the President does. They turned against the war because they saw it was being prosecuted incompetently.”

    I don’t think pointing fingers at this point accomplishes anything. The focus should be what to do next. As you pointed out, international security is at stake here. There will be plenty of time to assign blame when Iraq is secure and the troops can come home.

    Also, I only partially agree with what you are saying about the congress. I agree that if the war was going really well, every one of them would be bragging about how they supported the war. My problem with the congress is that their main arguments are not about incompetence (though these arguments are supplemental arguments) but about the reasons for war in the first place.

    Many of these people had the same access to the same faulty intelligence and voted for the war on that basis. Now they are trying to pretend that it was only President Bush who was foolish enough to believe there was WMD or say that the president outright lied to them.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau

    Doug:

    “At which point is the abandonment of Iraq appropriate?”

    I know it sounds trite but when the Iraqis can defend themselves without our help. That is how I would define victory. Whenever that is possible is anyone’s guess. We need to give the surge a chance to work. We are entirely too impatient when it comes to war; something this important cannot be rushed.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau

    Let me be even more clear: the troops can leave Iraq when we are confident that no such bloodbath will take place.

  • http://www.no-treason.com Wild Pegasus

    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?

    What consequences? I don’t expect to suffer any consequences if the US leaves Iraq, and I expect marginal improvements in things like interest rates.

    – Josh

  • js290

    Are we really prepared for the bloodbath which will undoubtedly occur if we were to leave?

    First we were suppose to be greeted as liberators… Now, there’s going to be a bloodbath if we leave (as if there isn’t one now with us there)… Will the chickenhawks make up their fuckin’ mind? Or, are they just wrong on all accounts? Iraqi oil is trading in dollars again, isn’t that good enough?

  • http://fpffressminds.blogspot.com/ Stephen Littau

    So Josh, you have no concern whatsoever about the Iraqis who will be slaughtered if we leave? That’s a little cold hearted don’t you think?

    js290:

    As the article I cited pointed out, many Iraqis are still greeting our troops as liberators. Of course this part is rarley reported in the MSM.

    If you think there is a bloodbath now, if the troops leave prematurely, we will see a humanitarian disaster akin to the Rape of Nanking. But I guess that isn’t our concern is it?

  • uhm

    We can figure out how to spread moderate Islam and do precision strikes or we can kill them all or we can continue the path laid out by our degenerate Emperors until we are bankrupt.

    First, America should have the Iraqis redo their Constitution at gun point and make them do it NOW or we go home.

    Second, we draw Al Qaeda out of Iraq or we go home.
    Millions of Muslims have passed through Mecca and Medina as an obligatory part of the Hajj and ‘Umra. These holiest of sites in Islam are under the auspices of Salafi leadership, sanctioned by the Saudi royal family.
    http://jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2370283

  • http://www.warisaracket.com/ js290

    So Josh, you have no concern whatsoever about the Iraqis who will be slaughtered if we leave? That’s a little cold hearted don’t you think?

    If you think there is a bloodbath now, if the troops leave prematurely, we will see a humanitarian disaster akin to the Rape of Nanking. But I guess that isn’t our concern is it?

    It certainly wasn’t a concern going into the war, so why is it a concern now?

    The chickenhawks have to get over themselves. It should be obvious by now that the Iraq war was about preserving the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. In the eye’s of the administration, 3000 or so dead US soldiers and however many Iraqis is a small price to pay to prop up the dollar.

    WMDs was how the war had to be sold to the public. People aren’t buying that line any more. The dollar isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. And, it takes gangsta like action on our part to force it down the rest of the world’s throat.

    Now, if you want to talk about the “consequences” of the dollar no longer being the world’s reserve currency, that may be a more interesting discussion. But, don’t hide behind the “Won’t someone think of the Iraqis?!” bullshit because the administration sure as hell wasn’t thinking about them going into this boondoggle.

  • Gunnar

    >> At which point is the abandonment of Iraq appropriate ?

    A question like “when did you stop beating your wife”. Did we ever abandon West Germany, or Japan? A long term presence in Iraq is in US long term interest. We should pull out of South Korea (they can and should be able to defend themselves), Germany, etc.

    >> And how do we define victory ?

    When there is no way for them to claim victory. It is an undeniable truth that victory breeds recruitment.

    >> What consequences? I don’t expect to suffer any consequences if the US leaves Iraq

    What incredible naivete. If the they weren’t compelled to defend the seat of the caliphate, the forces of radical islamo-fascists would certainly be targeting american cities for terror attacks. My children and I live downwind of DC.

    >> We can figure out how to spread moderate Islam

    Why bother? All we have to do is ensure religious freedom, enforce laws against cultist coercion, and Islam will fade. Islam can only grow by force, and they know it. The natural conversion rate to Christianity and Aethiesm are significantly higher than Islam.

  • uhm

    If religious freedom is the cure then why invade countries we can coerce governments by threatening annihilation if they don’t comply. If we are going this route then the US should use nukes against populations who will not comply and accept our values and institutions. It is a waste of resources invading, occupying and nation building.

    President Lyndon Johnson: “F— your Parliament and your Constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a flea. Greece is a flea. If these two fleas continue itching the elephant, they may just get whacked by the elephant’s trunk, whacked good…”

  • Gunnar

    Uhm, you’re not making any sense. Can’t respond, since your first sentence is incoherent, so I’ll just expand on my remarks:

    Some key characteristics of modern cults is that they threaten death to those who attempt to leave. Since it seems like Islam does this, Islam simply isn’t compatible with civilization. No other major religion, including aethiesm does this.

    Until we come to terms with this, we will simply be paralyzed. How do we deal with the cults that are in the US? Coercion is a crime, and the adherents are arrested. In addition to this irreconcilable difference, there is also the fact that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with freedom of speech, general liberty, women’s rights, etc.

    The bottom line is Stephen made some excellent arguments in the original posting. These are not neocon arguments, since these sentiments have been around for over 200 years, perhaps expressed most eloquently by JFK:

    Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

  • uhm

    I was pointing out that instead of wasting money through invasion, occupation and nation building like the neo-cons are doing we could use our nuclear deterrent as a negotiation tool. It worked with Japan. They surrendered. We came in, forced a Constitution down their throat then left. Now look how well Japan has ended up. One of the strongest economies in the world. One of the most peaceful nations on earth.

    Islam isn’t going anywhere. It’s been around for over a thousand years. I agree with you that (fundamentalist) Islam is against freedoms. It is one of the main reasons why our immigration laws need to be enforced.

    Liberty is dying across the world. EU has a democratic deficit. The US is becoming less of a free society day by day. Russia and Venezuela are heading toward authoritarianism. The picture is bleak in my opinion.

    We have a terrific military but our leadership has undermined them every step of the way in Iraq. If our Emperor and his goons didn’t muck things up our troops would be home with their families now where they belong.

  • C Bowen

    Gunnar,

    Great point about Steve’s rationale: Leftwing Socialist indeed. I loved the best part that you imply, that he actually cares about the Iraqi people. Pure comedy, using JFK’s lines to tag Steve with.

    As to dealing with Islam domestically, cut off the welfare state bennies and gubmint jobs and if they need a bigger hint, pay them to go home.

  • http://www.no-treason.com Wild Pegasus

    So Josh, you have no concern whatsoever about the Iraqis who will be slaughtered if we leave? That’s a little cold hearted don’t you think?

    As opposed to those being slaughtered now, which everyone on the ground agrees is worsened by the US’ presence?

    But that’s not the point. The question asks me if I am ready to suffer the consequences of withdrawal, and I’m telling you there aren’t many consequences for me to suffer.

    – Josh

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