- This week, maybe next, the US Congress will wrestle once
again with how to get America out of its self-initiated war in Iraq. Both
houses already have passed an Iraq War funding bill that would require
withdrawal of US combat forces by next year. However, the Democrats who
crafted this bill do not have enough votes to make it presidential veto-proof.
Both the bill and its probable future are tragic examples of America's
political mismanagement and self-indulgent leadership.
- This war has now gone on longer than World War II. And
that is an incredible statement, since the opposing army collapsed in only
a few days. The people the neo-cons promised would greet our forces with
flowers now have insurgent fighters who number at least two thirds of our
forces on the ground and whose goal is to convince us to leave as soon
- The perverse logic of this situation is that without
exaggerating we could have declared victory at the end of the first couple
of weeks and brought at least the bulk of our combat forces home. Bush
made the announcement with great flourish, but then he failed to get the
point: If we have won, let's quit while we are ahead.
- Instead Bush defined the conflict into a quagmire by
rebranding the invasion of Iraq as "the central battle in the War
on Terrorism." The Iraqis had never threatened us, but our forces
were going to kill "terrorists" in Iraq to keep them from coming
to America to kill us. That was either an ignorant or a deliberate falsehood,
because virtually all of the world's terrorists are in 75 or 80 other countries,
not in Iraq, and few of them are an actual threat to the United States.
- Meanwhile, any US national security rationale the Bush
administration asserted for the invasion of Iraq has simply evaporated.
The majority of Iraqis, say various polls, want the Americans and the remains
of the Coalition to leave. The US ends up with forces in Iraq who have
two inappropriate missions: (a) separate the factions and damp down the
violence among contending Iraqi insurgencies, and (b) defend themselves
against Iraqi dissidents who have every right to fight back against American
occupation of their country.
- Those two missions promise two very contradictory futures.
Mission A, keeping the factions from killing each other, puts our troops
in harm's way by positioning our forces as a third party to an internal
Iraqi quarrel. Our forces cannot win this one, because the Iraqis, however
they may approach it, must find their own answers to centuries-old disputes.
Mission B, defending themselves against Iraqi dissidents, puts our forces
in a position where the only potential gain is to defend themselves against
people who are going to fight back against their invaders until they die,
or our forces leave.
- In US security terms, the military operation in Iraq
is now totally sterile. Keeping our forces there to pursue either of those
missions is a misuse of American military power and, more important, an
abuse of our military forces. Because neither party in Washington is looking
squarely at this problem, they have turned the stationing of American troops
in Iraq into a Washington political booby trap.
- Nobody in Washington has found a good national security
reason why we should keep troops in Iraq except to achieve something that
could be called a victory. Neither wants to bring them home without declaring
some "mission accomplished." Both sides of the aisle are trying
to define that in domestic political terms. Since the war is not winnable,
each party is trying to make itself immune to the main domestic political
consequence of failing to win it: probable loss of the 2008 presidential
- Keeping our forces in Iraq to serve partisan domestic
political ambitions is simply inexcusable. With modern field communications,
even though our forces can see as well as any of us that domestic politics
has them staked out on a growing number of Iraqi insurgent anthills, they
will work loyally and hard to do what the President tells them to do. But
both the President and the Congress should wake up to the futility of the
present situation, engage the UN in providing a peacekeeping mission, and
bring our forces home. That will give them the support they most desperately
need at this time.
- The writer is the author of the recently published work,
A World Less Safe, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist
on rense.com. He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US
Department of State whose immediate pre-retirement positions were as Chairman
of the Department of International Studies of the National War College
and as Deputy Director of the State Office of Counter-Terrorism and Emergency
Planning. He will welcome comment at <mailto:email@example.com>firstname.lastname@example.org