Friday, May 4, 2007

War and Peace: Part III: Further Considerations on Iraq

In addition to the moral and ethical considerations mentioned earlier about Iraq, there are very practical reasons why we shouldn’t “cut and run” as many politicians (and much of the American public, if polls are to be believed) want to do. If we abandon Iraq, we then will have absolutely no credibility in the world. We will be viewed as a “paper tiger” (to use the Chinese communist phrase from earlier days) and will have lost any clout we might have had in world affairs. We would be viewed as spineless weaklings, starting fights we don’t have the will to complete. It would be a foreign policy disaster. The unfortunate effect of being viewed as a paper tiger is that we will be fair game for any and all terrorists, and US citizens will be at tremendous risk, both at home and abroad. A government that allows that to happen to its citizens is irresponsible in my opinion.

We not only destabilized Iraq by our invasion, but we are also at risk of destabilizing the whole region. If we cut and run, we will leave behind a power vacuum in Iraq and the whole Middle East. With the US out of the picture, a fully-blown multi-party war will then erupt in that unfortunate country, with Iran, Al-Qaida, probably Syria, and others fighting to take control. Such a conflict will jeopardize moderate states in the region (Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan, and Turkey), not to mention our oil supply. You think the price of gas is high now? Just wait and see what happens if the whole region blows up. We have to stay, for our own good, the good of the region, and ultimately the good of the world.

Lastly, even when Iraq stabilizes, as it eventually will if we see it through, we will have to maintain a significant military presence in the area for the foreseeable future. We kept a significant military presence in Europe since World War II, and that kept the Soviets at bay. We have had a presence in South Korea for over 50 years, and kept the North from doing something foolish (so far). Because the Middle East is so vital to us (mainly oil, but also Israel) and we want to protect the moderate states in the region, we will have to keep at least one carrier group in the gulf and a significant land-based presence. Such a presence will make Iran think twice before doing something foolish, one would hope. Right now, I think Iran is a bigger risk than any other country or terrorist group.

Much as I hate to see our troops dying in Iraq, I firmly believe we have to see this through for the reasons mentioned above. Not only Iraq’s but also our future depends on it. Rather than bailing out, we have to devise better strategies to protect our troops, reduce terrorist incidents, train the Iraqi forces, and win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis so they will turn in suspected terrorists or tell the authorities when they see an explosive device being assembled by a roadside or put into a car. Once these terrorists realize we aren’t leaving, that we have the will to see this through and we aren’t crawling home with our tail between our legs, the bombings will become less frequent and we will prevail. Let’s just pray that fewer and fewer American lives are lost in the months and years ahead, and that our leaders will have wisdom in their decision-making, thinking strategically, not just short-term.

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