Friday, June 08, 2007

A Rare Thing, Something Honest in the NYT

Defeat's Killing Fields: Ignoring Iraqis and Regional Dominoes
[Steve Schippert] of The Tank
This New York Times commentary, "Defeat's Killing Fields," by Peter W. Rodman and William Shawcross requires attention. To cut to the chase:

And despite the defeat in 1975, America’s 10 years in Indochina had positive effects. Lee Kuan Yew, then prime minister of Singapore, has well articulated how the consequences would have been worse if the United States had not made the effort in Indochina. “Had there been no U.S. intervention,” he argues, the will of non-communist countries to resist communist revolution in the 1960s “would have melted and Southeast Asia would most likely have gone communist.” The domino theory would have proved correct.

Today, in Iraq, there should be no illusion that defeat would come at an acceptable price. George Orwell wrote that the quickest way of ending a war is to lose it. But anyone who thinks an American defeat in Iraq will bring a merciful end to this conflict is deluded. Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences.

As in Indochina more than 30 years ago, millions of Iraqis today see the United States helping them defeat their murderous opponents as the only hope for their country. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have committed themselves to working with us and with their democratically elected government to enable their country to rejoin the world as a peaceful, moderate state that is a partner to its neighbors instead of a threat. If we accept defeat, these Iraqis will be at terrible risk. Thousands upon thousands of them will flee, as so many Vietnamese did after 1975.

We are engaged, like it or not, in a larger battle against the mind of the jihadiyun. His psyche is his movement. And to feed it quite unnecessarily in an asymmetric conflict is to build the Messerschmidt’s for the Luftwaffe in 1943. Yet, so invested in military defeat for political victory are much of America’s political leaders that they dare not broach the subject of the dire consequences of their political ‘gains.’ As Rodman and Shawcross put it, "The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences."

They are appalling. Yet we allow our political leadership to ignore them at our peril. Furthermore, as much as those critical also often align themselves with the thinking of self-blame for the rise of the jihadi against us (often couched in the caveat of American arrogance or imperialism), what strikes me as profoundly more arrogant is the lack of consideration - across the board - of the Iraqi people and the unthinkable consequences that await them as the price to be paid for a comfort-seeking American disengagement.

Last night, I scribbled this in response to the dismissed consequences and the apparent absence of concern for Iraqis among so many of the ‘champions of compassion’:

And indeed those consequences are ignored. Consider that Pakistan is like a domino falling in slow motion with al-Qaeda rebuilt beyond pre-9/11 strength and facilities. When Pakistan falls, the Saudi Arabian domino with then proceed with greater alacrity and the dynamic of this conflict will undertake a profound shift.

Some among those who criticize our engagement in the Iraq War, when confronted with descriptions of “defeatism,” suggest that they would focus more intently on Afghanistan, where “the real fight” (with al-Qaeda) is. Unfortunately, even a complete shift of US forces into Afghanistan from Iraq would not address this, as the al-Qaeda enemy makes its home in Pakistan. Are they then advocating an invasion of Pakistan? [Note to self: Remember, Afghanistan was a 'quagmire.']

If we allow defeat in Iraq considering this greater context, what then of those who “advocate measures that would make it more likely?”

No, the conflict will not end with our ‘redeployment’ from Iraq. Not if redeployed to Afghanistan, nor if redeployed to Camp Pendleton. It almost certainly would, however, fuel the fire and spark a regional blaze with dominoes teetering.

And this is to say nothing of the Iraqi killing fields that would engulf them. When is the last time you heard a Congressional critic reference the Iraqi people? And why not? Because they dare not. In order to maintain their vested positions, they simply must “ignore these consequences.”
And those among them with a conscience will hauntingly find peaceable sleep a fleeting commodity. Those without will relish in their political victory with eyes averted. But history will not be kind.

Perhaps, in the quiet solitude of night, their conscience knows and quietly begs a way around the darkness that awaits them. Perhaps. Their words and actions, however, give no indication whatsoever.

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