December 4, 2005
Desperate Arguments For Staying the Course
When President Bush went to the Naval Academy the other day, he
spoke in front of a sign that could have been an answer on "Jeopardy."
It had the words "Plan for Victory." The question: What
did the Bush administration fail to do when it invaded Iraq?
his slogan could have been "Assume Victory." Expecting
a quick and conclusive triumph, the administration blithely figured
we would get out as quickly as we got in. Bad guess.
for victory that Bush laid out sounds pretty much like what he
has been promising to do ever since his original non-plan turned
out to be a bust. We will build democratic institutions, train
Iraqi forces, combat the insurgents and eventually achieve a victory
that will let American troops come home.
is that so far, the plan has not worked -- if working means containing
the damage inflicted by the enemy or establishing stability in
Iraq. But the promise of what we will accomplish in Iraq is no
longer the centerpiece of the administration's case.
it's obvious that the best we can hope for is to leave the country
with a semi-stable government, democratic or not, that will take
over the fight so we can excuse ourselves. So the White House
has largely shifted its argument to a negative one: Whatever the
costs of staying, the consequences of leaving would be worse.
Keeping our troops in Iraq may not bring success, but it staves
made a version of this argument in Annapolis, suggesting that
it's something of a good thing for our troops to come under terrorist
attack in Iraq. "If we were not fighting and destroying this
enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle," he declared. "They
would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within
our own borders."
But if this
is true, why would we ever want to leave? If the enemy's main
goal is to kill Americans, turning the war over to Iraqi forces
won't solve the problem. On the contrary, it will leave the insurgents
no choice but to come after us right here at home.
logic, the only sensible thing to do is stay in Iraq until we
kill them all. No serious person thinks that is going to happen
anytime soon. If Bush believes what he says, he should be preparing
us all to stick it out for another decade -- which is how long
our commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, expects the insurgency
not to admit that the only reason Iraq is a terrorist hotbed is
that we invaded and fostered chaos. Not only have foreigners come
into Iraq with the aspiration of killing Americans, but Iraqis
have joined the jihad as well. Some have even left Iraq to advance
the cause -- such as the ones who carried out attacks in Jordan
co-author of the new book "The Next Attack: The Failure of
the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting It Right," says,
"The 'flypaper' theory is fine if the number of terrorists
is finite." In fact, our presence is obviously inflaming
anti-Americanism and creating more terrorists, in Iraq and elsewhere.
lame argument for staying comes from Dick Cheney. He says that
the terrorists hit the American homeland Sept. 11, 2001, because
our retreats from Lebanon and Somalia indicated "they could
strike us with impunity." If we leave Iraq, he warns, these
enemies will be emboldened once again.
he leaving out? Oh yes, our invasion of Afghanistan, which proved
once and for all that they cannot strike the American homeland
with impunity. That should give pause to any terrorists who think
they can use Iraq as a base to hit New York or Washington. But
in Cheney's strange view of the world, Afghanistan counts for
nothing with our enemies.
Iraq, he insists, would tell the bad guys they can attack us at
home. But leaving Iraq after invading Afghanistan would actually
tell them something very different: You may get away with attacking
Americans in Iraq, but you can't get away with attacking Americans
in America. So if we leave Iraq, they will have no good options
for attacking us.
point, the administration's arguments have the ring of desperation.
They're the equivalent of telling a man who picks up a beehive
and gets stung by dozens of bees that whatever he does, he must
not let go of the hive.
2005 Creators Syndicate