Thursday, May 24, 2007


Fredrick Kagan: "Don't Abandon the Iraqis"

Courtesy of Michael Totten -- who freely admits that he almost wishes the United States would withdraw from the mess that is Iraq -- here is the article that forces him to reconsider:
From time to time, nations face fundamental tests of character. Forced to choose between painful but wise options, and irresponsible ones that offer only temporary relief from pain, a people must decide what price they are willing to pay to safeguard themselves and their children and to do the right thing. America has faced such tests before. Guided by Abraham Lincoln, we met our greatest challenge during the Civil War and overcame it, despite agonizing doubts about the possibility of success even into 1864. The Greatest Generation recovered from the shock of Pearl Harbor and refused to stop fighting until both Germany and Japan had surrendered unconditionally. A similar moment is upon us in Iraq. What will we do?
What, indeed?

America has vital national interests in Iraq. The global al Qaeda movement has decided to defeat us there--not merely to establish a base from which to pursue further tyranny and terror, but also to erect a triumphant monument on the ruins of American power. Al Qaeda claims to have defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and its recruiting rests in part on that boast. If America flees the field of battle against this foe in Iraq, al Qaeda will have gained an even more powerful recruiting slogan. That is why al Qaeda fighters from across the Muslim world are streaming into Iraq and fighting desperately to retain and expand their positions there. Al Qaeda does not think Iraq is a distraction from their war against us. Al Qaeda believes Iraq is the central front--and it is.
(emphasis mine)

I might add: Iraq is the central front because al-Qaeda thinks it is. They have made their stand in Iraq, and it is up to us to defeat them utterly there -- or wait with dread for the day when we must fight them elsewhere.

It does not matter if we believe that an American withdrawal from Iraq is not admission of defeat. They would see it as an American defeat... and they would believe that they had scared us away. If they can frighten mighty America, what can they not accomplish?

Do we really want to embolden the terrorists who bomb schools and mosques, who hide behind little children, who kidnap innocent people and cut off their heads? Is this the sort of behavior we want to encourage?

That's the American vested interest in seeing this through. But there's more. Mr. Kagan reminds us that victory or defeat in Iraq will affect the other countries in the region for decades to come -- which will give hope, or despair, to tens of millions of people. Isn't that more important than yet another "symbolic" Congressional bill for the President to veto?

But there's more. Mr. Kagan shows us some of the human side of the struggle. Iraqis are fighting this battle every bit as hard as we are, with much higher casualty rates -- and with considerably higher stakes. Many brave Iraqis, their lives (and the lives of their families) in daily danger, have put their trust in us. Their lives are forfeit if we turn our backs on them. Can we permit ourselves to do that? Could we ever face ourselves if we let that happen?

And, as if that weren't enough, there's more.

Please do read the whole thing. It won't take you long.


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