Iraq: Do we have the courage to continue?
As General David H. Petraeus prepares his “surge” report, the words of Sir Winston Churchill come to mind: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”
In one sense, the “surge” is working where combined U.S. and Iraqi forces are sufficient to “clear and hold” particular pieces of the Iraqi landscape. But the larger problem is that Iraq is not a true nation-state. Following World War I, the League of Nations entrusted Great Britain with a “mandate” over Mesopotamia.
In 1921, to thwart Russian, Turkish and Persian expansionism and to ensure oil supplies for the Royal Navy, then British Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill; British agent, Gertrude Bell, and T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia), sketched a map one evening on a dinner table that cobbled the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds together inside the artificial boundaries that define modern-day Iraq.
Yet, despite that major structural problem, it seems something positive for the Judeo-Christian democracies may be taking place. With the notable exception of neighboring Iran, all the nations of the Middle East want the U.S. to maintain a substantial, but not overpowering, military presence in Iraq. Israel, of course, wants the U.S. to be strong enough to deter Iran from “wiping Israel off the map.”
So, if all the regional neighbors, save one, want a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq, will our continued presence there be termed a victory for U.S. foreign policy or a defeat? For his part, President Bush is no longer talking about military “victory” in Iraq. Instead, he is talking about “a successful outcome.”
Thirty-eight months ago, writing in USA Today, this observer suggested a successful outcome in Iraq need only to make sure that Iraq’s oil revenues do not go to al-Qaeda, that its government not support terrorism against the U.S. and that we retain enough military presence to interdict the radical Islamist lines of communication between Cairo and Pakistan. In effect, U.S. troops positioned as a blocking force between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Our chances of doing all that are still good.
President Kennedy famously said, “Success has many fathers, but failure is often an orphan.” The irony in all this is that victory for one political party may be seen as a defeat for the other. With regard to the 2008 elections, neither party wants to be the father of defeat. But, at the same time, it is not in the political interest of Democrats to “concede” victory.
Alternatively, one of the worst outcomes for the eventual Democrat nominee would be a Vietnam-style defeat in Iraq. Recall, all U.S. forces (except for embassy guards and supply personnel turning over equipment to the South Vietnamese forces) were out of South Vietnam by 1973. The collapse did not come until 1975 when the North Vietnamese violated their Paris Accord pledge not to invade South Vietnam and the Democrat-controlled Congress flat-out refused to honor our Paris Accord pledges to provide the South Vietnamese with ammunition and to come back to their rescue, if need be.
Fleeing the communist onslaught, millions of South Vietnamese took to boats or stayed in place to be killed or imprisoned and “reeducated.” In the “killing fields,” the communists slaughtered two million Cambodians.
Today, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are cooperating with our troops. A Vietnam-style pull out would consign them to the same fate as the South Vietnamese and the Cambodians.
This places the Sinistra Media in a difficult position. If it portrays Iraq in November, 2008, as “a successful outcome,” the GOP benefits. If the Sinistra Media report the situation in Iraq as a defeat, the Congressman John “Loathsome Dove” Murtha wing of the Democrat Party will have “won” a pyrrhic victory that could keep the Democrats out of power for decades to come.
Thus, the best outcome for both political parties would be to nominate presidential candidates who say they have “the courage to continue.”
Syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, William Hamilton, is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and a former research fellow at the U.S. Military History Institute of the U.S. Army War College. He is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. Writing as William Penn, he and his wife are the co-authors of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2007. William Hamilton.