Chuck Hagel’s Honor
Nebraska’s Senior Senator has an Oped in the Washington Post today, likely attempting to set himself up for a 2008 Presidential bid. The title of his Oped is Leaving Iraq, Honorably. Some excerpts of his Oped Follow:
There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis — not the Americans.
Senator Hagel is right on one aspect, that the future of Iraq was always going to be determined by Iraqis, not Iranians, Syrians, Saudis or Americans. That is what we and those who are fighting alongside us have been fighting for in Iraq. What Senator Hagel is wrong about is his statement that there will be no victory or defeat in Iraq. Bottom line is either we do achieve a government in Iraq that is able to protect itself and its citizens from the terrorists or it will undoubtedly be seen as a defeat for the United States. There really are only two
The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation — regardless of our noble purpose.
First lets look at the size of our military.. Currently we have 1.4 million personnel on active duty, and another 1.2 million reservists. We have approximately 140,000 troops deployed in Iraq, or roughly 10% of our active force. If our military is not large enough to meet obligations in Iraq and throughout the world it is time to reevaluate those obligations or increase the size of the military. Each of those two actions require an act of congress. Of course a member of the Senate foreign Relations Committee would know this.
We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.
It may take many years before there is a cohesive political center in Iraq. America’s options on this point have always been limited. There will be a new center of gravity in the Middle East that will include Iraq. That process began over the past few days with the Syrians and Iraqis restoring diplomatic relations after 20 years of having no formal communication.
What does this tell us? It tells us that regional powers will fill regional vacuums, and they will move to work in their own self-interest — without the United States. This is the most encouraging set of actions for the Middle East in years. The Middle East is more combustible today than ever before, and until we are able to lead a renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, mindless destruction and slaughter will continue in Lebanon, Israel and across the Middle East.
Interesting that in one paragraph the Senator says that Iraq belongs to the 25 million people who live there and just a few paragraphs later he says that regional powers (Iran & Syria) will move to fill vacuums and work in their own self interest. Guess he really doesn’t believe those 25 million people will get much say about what happens in Iraq after we leave.
America finds itself in a dangerous and isolated position in the world. We are perceived as a nation at war with Muslims. Unfortunately, that perception is gaining credibility in the Muslim world and for many years will complicate America’s global credibility, purpose and leadership. This debilitating and dangerous perception must be reversed as the world seeks a new geopolitical, trade and economic center that will accommodate the interests of billions of people over the next 25 years. The world will continue to require realistic, clear-headed American leadership — not an American divine mission.
The United States must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq. The cost of combat in Iraq in terms of American lives, dollars and world standing has been devastating. We’ve already spent more than $300 billion there to prosecute an almost four-year-old war and are still spending $8 billion per month. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And our effort in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, partly because we took our focus off the real terrorist threat, which was there, and not in Iraq.
America is in a dangerous position in the world, the world is a dangerous place. Made even more dangerous by previous administrations ignoring the dangers of Islamic Fundamentalism. Ignoring the dangers that terrorists pose will not make the danger go away. We have two choices here we can either be on offense which means confronting the terrorists at a time and place of our choosing, or we can be on defense, which means we will have surrendered the initiative to the terrorists. They will choose the time and place as well as the manor of how they would attack us.
Pulling out now would have ramifications far beyond Iraq. If America leaves Iraq before our mission there is complete whether you agree with that mission or not, we will have handed the Islamists a far more significant victory than even the bloody attack of September 11th. It would validate their most powerful recruiting tool; that weak Americans will inevitably be defeated by Jihad, and the future belongs to a despotism based on Islamic Tyranny and radicalized Islam. The effects on our Allies would be even worse especially those who are themselves under threat from Islamic Fundamentalists. How many would conclude that appeasing the terrorists would be their best hope of survival?
It is not too late. The United States can still extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq. The Baker-Hamilton commission gives the president a new opportunity to form a bipartisan consensus to get out of Iraq. If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder — one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead.
Senator Hagel should well remember how we extricated ourselves “honorably” from Southeast Asia…. Millions of people died then, because American politicians refused to stand up to tyranny and tinpot dictators. How many millions will die now because more American politicians are again refusing to stand up to the tactics of terror so those same politicians can achieve some sort of short term political gain. Somehow I fail to see the honor in the deaths of millions. Rather than pursuing a bi-partisan foundation for an exit strategy we should be pursuing a bi-partisan winning strategy.