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Redeploy and Then?

Defeatists Are Not Looking Past 2008 Elections

By Michael Tanji | July 17, 2007

Most of those in Congress who now oppose the war were at one time all for it. Today of course they claim to have been duped, lied to, though there is pretty solid evidence that most of them did not bother to evaluate the available information themselves. Politicians are busy, fair enough, but if they are determined not to be fooled again then you would think that they would wait to get some solid, authoritative information about the state of Iraq before they decided on their strategy for Iraq. The surge did not begin in earnest until a few weeks ago and General Petraeus is not due to give his first status report until September. So why are some already calling the surge a failure and arguing for withdrawal now?

The fact is that those calling for "re-deployment" are less motivated by data or facts and more keen on supporting anything "not-Bush." These are politicians after all, so that is to be expected, but such a strategy is only going to be useful until 2008. Then what?

Let us assume that after the next presidential election those who oppose the President and the surge take control of the White House and gain an even larger majority in both houses of Congress. What is the first order of business with regards to Iraq once a new national security team is in place? If a pull-out is their goal (let's be clear: "re-deployment" means sending troops home, not surging on Kabul) what is their position or strategy for dealing with:

  • The post-retreat violence and chaos that is sure to kick off when we leave? Does that fall under the umbrella of "tough love" or is genocide a plank on a Party platform?
  • The terrorist safe-haven that Iraq will become? Do they believe that Syria and Iran - state sponsors of terrorism both – will suddenly abandon the practice and bring law and order to Mesopotamia?
  • The deadly blow to American credibility? America: that country that talks a lot about freedom but leaves innocents to suffer and die under oppression.

The fact of the matter is that those calling for retreat have no ideas of substance beyond their own bumper-sticker slogans on how to deal with these very real and pressing issues. A review of the Web sites of those in Congress who call Iraq lost and aspire to lead the nation down a new path reveals some common points on how they would deal with Iraq:

  • Set a date for withdrawal
  • Establish political and military benchmarks with consequences
  • Micro-manage and over-regulate the armed forces
  • Convince those who are helping tear Iraq apart to make nice

There are a few minor variations, but you get the gist.

Set aside the fact that some of these goals – a politically stable and functioning government, a fully capability Iraqi military – are shared with the President. The remaining balance all share a common theme: a disconnect with reality.

A firm date for withdrawal of US forces is just another way of establishing a terrorist-liberation-day in Iraq. US military might is the only thing that is keeping a relative lid on violence in Iraq. A date-certain for withdrawal would bring about a temporary drop in violence, but only because terrorists would be taking advantage of the down-time to prepare for the slaughter that was to come.

We successfully defeated the old Iraq. What the surge is doing is trying to set the conditions for the rise of a new Iraq. Benchmarks are essential for that rise. But what consequences do we impose absent progress? For some the answer seems to be "progress or die," because that is what will happen if we leave prematurely. The results-now-or-else caucus want Iraq to be post-war Germany or Japan: at best an apples to oranges comparison given the size of the forces involved and the differences in the nature of the two wars.

More troops would allow the US to exert more control over the security situation in Iraq, but caps on troop levels are a key factor in the strategies of most defeatists. The leaving behind of a token force of trainers is a viable option, but only if the security situation affords them a level of protection that does not result in a repeat of Little Big Horn. Having the Secretary of Defense "certify" that every troop sent forward is perfectly trained and outfitted is the Sarbanes-Oxley-fication of war. Ask any business executive what a pleasure work has been since that legislation passed and you will have some idea of what it will take for the US to defend its interests and principles.

A full-court press with regards to diplomacy in the Middle East is essential, but there is no indication that any of the major players interfering in Iraq today are of a mind to stop no matter how nicely we ask. The lesson of the Palestinian Territories seems to have been lost on "realists": every despot and dictator needs an injustice to blame on someone else in order to justify the injustices they inflict on their own. A stable, strong and even vaguely pro-Western Iraq means more trouble for these regimes, not less.

Putting ideas into the heads of others is always a dicey prospect, but we can get a pretty good idea of what other changes to war-time strategy we can expect if the defeatists seize political power in 2008: indictments. After all, terrorism is a crime and nothing deters crime like indictments. Look what is has done for Osama Bin Laden, who has been under indictment in the US since 1998.

Beyond indictments there may also be the occasional missile strike against the odd pharmaceutical factory, and if we are feeling particularly aggressive, the deployment of an undersized ground force to some terrorist safe-haven where a series of unfortunate events will lead to withdrawal and reinforce further still the view that Americans hit hard, but will not stick around to finish the job.

Where the defeatists are likely to make real headway is in the realm of intelligence, where most if not all of the programs put in place since 9/11 to seek out, monitor and disrupt terrorists at home and abroad will more than likely come to a screeching halt. Terrorists have rights after all (hence the need for indictments) and if there is one thing we cannot have in this country it is a citizen's right to life and liberty trumping a terrorists right to kill and imprison.

If the defeatists truly thought their positions on the war were supported by a majority of the people, they would have no qualms about tossing aside the half-baked legislation they have been offering to date and outright vote on a bill that de-funds the war. They would repeatedly and loudly offer nothing but such legislation – despite the threat of a Presidential veto - knowing that the same public outcry that killed the recent immigration reform bill would also rally to support them. The people will always rally to a righteous cause.

They do not take such action because they know they have no such support. It's not that American's do not like war; they do not like losing in wars. The current administration has not executed the war as smartly as it could have - there is extensive room for improvement - but the fact that they are changing strategies to adapt to changing conditions and threats flies in the face of charges that this is a President who does not listen and who makes decisions in a vacuum.

You do not have to take our word for it though; just note the actions of those who know this war up close and personal, like the hundreds of soldiers who re-enlisted en masse in Iraq this past July 4th. Most have probably served multiple tours in at least one of the war zones and many had probably rolled out of combat not long before the ceremony, swore their allegiance and fidelity to a cause far greater than themselves, and not long after rolled back out into combat once more. They know the reality and horror of war and they willingly go back because they know the consequences of failure.

Were only the defeatist caucus so stalwart and forward looking.


"“re-deployment” means sending troops home, not surging on Kabul)"

Excellent observation and I fear you are exactly right. It's not that the left wants to win the war against the jihadists but simply has a different strategy to do so, they just want the whole thing to go away.

If we withdraw prematurely from Iraq, the jihadists will "redeploy also; to Afghanistan. There they will use the same tactics against us that they used to drive us out of Iraq, and they'll have the numbers to make it work.

How long, then, before the Democrats (aided by some Republicans) decide that Afghanistan isn't worth it? How long before they start setting "benchmarks" that the Afghan government must meet "or we'll withdraw"? How long before they decide that the money spent in Afghanistan is urgently needed back home ("for a badly underfunded school lunch program")? Not long, I'll wager.

Wherever the Iraqi adventure leads the real challenge is just ahead. It should be kept in mind that the state of Iraq, more or less, is composed of a population lacking any historical patriotic ideal, rife with religious absurdities, infatuated with ideologic differences, connected by no common tie, inclined to be pursuaded to evil, disposed to anarchy, and continuously ready to rise against any government whatsoever. Otherwise a piece of cake!