Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Special Post for Wednesday, October 05, 2005
What's Wrong With Cutting and Running? by Gen. (ret.) William E. Odom
If I were a journalist, I would list all the arguments that you hear against pulling
Here are some of the arguments against pulling out:
1. We would leave behind a civil war.
2. We would lose credibility on the world stage.
3. It would embolden the insurgency and cripple the move toward democracy.
5. Iranian influence in
6. Unrest might spread in the region and/or draw in
7. Shi'ite-Sunni clashes would worsen.
8. We haven't fully trained the Iraqi military and police forces yet.
9. Talk of deadlines would undercut the morale of our troops.
But consider this:
1. On civil war. Iraqis are already fighting Iraqis. Insurgents have killed far more Iraqis than Americans. That's civil war. We created the civil war when we invaded; we can't prevent a civil war by staying.
For those who really worry about destabilizing the region, the sensible policy is not to stay the course in
Thus, those who fear leaving a mess are actually helping make things worse while preventing a new strategic approach with some promise of success.
2. On credibility. If we were
Ask the president if he really worries about
3. On the insurgency and democracy. There is no question the insurgents and other anti-American parties will take over the government once we leave. But that will happen no matter how long we stay. Any government capable of holding power in
President Bush's statements about progress in
Ask the president: Why should we expect a different outcome in
Ask the president if he intends to leave a pro-American liberal regime in place. Because that's just impossible. Postwar
Imposing a liberal constitutional order in
4. On terrorists.
Why not ask: "Mr. President, since you and the vice president insisted that Saddam's Iraq supported al-Qaeda – which we now know it did not – isn't your policy in Iraq today strengthening al-Qaeda's position in that country?"
5. On Iranian influence. Iranian leaders see
Questions for the administration: "Why do the Iranians support our presence in
6. On Iraq's neighbors. The civil war we leave behind may well draw in
7. On Shi'ite-Sunni conflict. The
8. On training the
The issue is not military training; it is institutional loyalty. We trained the Vietnamese military effectively. Its generals took power and proved to be lousy politicians and poor fighters in the final showdown. In many battles over a decade or more, South Vietnamese military units fought very well, defeating VC and NVA units. But
Even if we were able to successfully train an Iraqi military and police force, the likely result, after all that, would be another military dictatorship. Experience around the world teaches us that military dictatorships arise when the military's institutional modernization gets ahead of political consolidation.
9. On not supporting our troops by debating an early pullout. Many
Most surprising to me is that no American political leader today has tried to unmask the absurdity of the administration's case that to question the strategic wisdom of the war is unpatriotic and a failure to support our troops. Most officers and probably most troops don't see it that way. They are angry at the deficiencies in materiel support they get from the Department of Defense, and especially about the irresponsibly long deployments they must now endure because Mr. Rumsfeld and his staff have refused to enlarge the ground forces to provide shorter tours. In the meantime, they know that the defense budget shovels money out the door to maritime forces, SDI, etc., while refusing to increase dramatically the size of the Army.
As I wrote several years ago, "the Pentagon's post-Cold War force structure is so maritime heavy and land force weak that it is firmly in charge of the porpoises and whales while leaving the land to tyrants." The Army, some of the Air Force, the National Guard, and the reserves are now the victims of this gross mismatch between military missions and force structure. Neither the Bush nor the
So why is almost nobody advocating a pullout? I can only speculate. We face a strange situation today where few if any voices among Democrats in Congress will mention early withdrawal from
Journalists can ask all the questions they like, but none will prompt a more serious debate as long as no political leaders create the context and force the issues into the open.
I don't believe anyone will be able to sustain a strong case in the short run without going back to the fundamental misjudgment of invading Iraq in the first place. Once the enormity of that error is grasped, the case for pulling out becomes easy to see.
Look at John Kerry's utterly absurd position during the presidential campaign. He said, "It's the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time," but then went on to explain how he expected to win it anyway. Even the voter with no interest in foreign affairs was able to recognize it as an absurdity. If it was the wrong war at the wrong place and time, then it was never in our interests to fight. If that is true, what has changed to make it in our interests? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq only serves the interests of:
1. Osama bin Laden (it made Iraq safe for al-Qaeda, positioned U.S. military personnel in places where al-Qaeda operatives can kill them occasionally, helps radicalize youth throughout the Arab and Muslim world, alienates America's most important and strongest allies – the Europeans – and squanders U.S. military resources that otherwise might be finishing off al-Qaeda in Pakistan.);
2. The Iranians (who were invaded by Saddam and who suffered massive casualties in an eight-year war with Iraq.);
3. And the extremists in both Palestinian and Israeli political circles (who don't really want a peace settlement without the utter destruction of the other side, and probably believe that bogging the United States down in a war in Iraq that will surely become a war with the rest of Arab world gives them the time and cover to wipe out the other side.)
The wisest course for journalists might be to begin sustained investigations of why leading Democrats have failed so miserably to challenge the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The first step, of course, is to establish as conventional wisdom the fact that the war was never in the U.S.' interests and has not become so. It is such an obvious case to make that I find it difficult to believe many pundits and political leaders have not already made it repeatedly.
Lt. Gen. William Odom, served as director of the National Security Agency under President Reagan from 1985 to 1988. From 1981 to 1985, he served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army's senior intelligence officer. He is now a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington.