September 5, 2007
The Withdrawal Crowd is in RetreatBy J.R. Dunn
One welcome by-product of the surge is the way it has put all the cries for "withdrawal" into perspective.
Withdrawal from Iraq has been a major theme of the denizens of Kos and Democratic Underground since before the invasion ever took place. It made its way into the mainstream as a component of Cindy Sheehan's single-note wail last summer (you'll recall that she even wanted the U.S. to withdraw from New Orleans). Since then it has been the be-all end-all solution for the Democrats.
There has never in all this time been any argument as to whether a withdrawal should occur, only when and how fast. The Democrats are interested above all in repeating their last major foreign policy triumph, the abandonment of Vietnam, even going so far as to trot out that retreat's architect, George McGovern, still in his 80s proud of his moment of glory, if a tad forgetful that it led directly to the deaths of 2 million plus Cambodians and several hundred thousand Vietnamese boat people.
The withdrawal campaign hit its peak last spring as dissatisfaction with the war effort edged past the 50% mark and GOP opportunists such as Domenici and Lugar climbed aboard. For a time going into summer it seemed that a withdrawal vote might actually have a chance in Congress, an eventuality that would have seriously jeopardized the surge strategy.
That initiative failed thanks to Harry Reid's unmatched ability to screw up a royal flush. Reid's gimmick of holding an all-night session to force a vote backfired, antagonizing the Republicans to the point that they held the line.
The surge has put the lid on all that, by revealing that public dissatisfaction was based on lack of progress against the Jihadis and not actual opposition to the war itself. After three months of Al-Queda and associates being chased from pillar to post, accompanied by an impressive drop in attacks and other incidents, the polls have begun to turn around despite everything the media, the Democrats and Brian de Palma can do to muddy the results. Support for withdrawal short of victory was soft in the first place and is growing softer every day.
Calls for retreat continue, but they've taken on a plaintive quality. Harry Reid wants the world to know that he's willing to compromise with the GOP, dropping his demand that all troops be brought home by next spring in favor of assuring that no new troops are sent (which is withdrawal under another name). John Warner suggested that he was toying with thinking about considering the possibility of calling for withdrawal - early in the same week he announced his retirement. As for retreatist stalwarts such as John Murtha, Nancy Pelosi, and James Webb, very little has been heard from them recently, much less Domenici and Lugar.
More to the point is the experience of Rep. Brian Baird, a diehard anti-war advocate and a dependable vote against war-related issues who completely changed his tune after a recent visit to Iraq. Baird represents a district in Washington State. Some of his constituents have made him suffer, all but calling down curses at a recent town meeting. Baird appears to have held his ground. We often forget, amid all the psychopathology and cynicism, that people who are perfectly sincere in their beliefs exist on the other side. Baird is one of these. If they've lost him, they've lost the battle.
There's always been a distinct air of unreality about the withdrawal proposals. Recall Murtha's insistence that the troops should be positioned "over the horizon" in Okinawa. (A little further over that horizon and they'd be on the moon.) Or Hillary's demand that all forces be brought back to the U.S. by March 2008 so as not to inconvenience her presidential campaign. While other withdrawal arguments were not quite so lost in never-neverland, none has ever revealed many signs of thought, consideration, or serious analysis. (Until last week, when in an act of pure bad timing, the Center for American Progress, a busybody organization run by Clintonite John Podesta, came out with a "study" demonstrating that the U.S. could run out of Iraq in less than a year's time. That's with removing all our equipment. If we left it behind for Al-Queda and the Mahdi Army, we could do it in three months.)
A simple test of all these proposals (if that's the word I'm groping for), is to examine two items that go unmentioned in any of them -- including Podesta's, which is presented as "comprehensive" -- oil and Iran.
In the chaos that would ensue in the Persian Gulf region after a U.S. withdrawal, what happens to oil prices? Iraq, at 200 billion+ barrels, has the second-largest oil reserves in the world. It borders on Saudi Arabia, which is number one. Kuwait is no piker in this regard either. If the violence following a withdrawal spills over the borders - which it will - oil prices will not drop. What do the withdrawal advocates have to say about oil hitting $100 or $200 a barrel? We have yet to hear. The economic consequences would be incalculable - an international recession would be the least of it. The one thing we can be certain of is that U.S. troops would no longer be on Okinawa.
Turning to Iran, we find the mullahs ready to slip right in. They have a base in the Basra area and an ally, so to speak, in Moqtada al-Sadr. The result of such a move would be a three-way civil war between the Iranian-backed Shi'ites, the Sunnis, and the Kurds, that would make the current situation look like Monday-night wrestling. We could not expect the Saudis, the other Sunni states, or Turkey to remain aloof, raising the specter of regional war. The outcome would be anybody's guess, but would unquestionably be worse than the relatively simple oil scenario outlined above. Again, there's one thing we can be certain of: we would be in it up to our ears, with a casualty level far higher than that we are suffering today.
And that's not even considering the wild card of nuclear weapons. If Iran were to succeed in developing them while all this was going on, we would simply have to wave goodbye to the Middle East, and hello to bicycle and horse-drawn domestic transportation.
If any withdrawal advocate, from the most dyspeptic voice on DU up to Nancy Pelosi, has ever considered either of these factors, there's no record of it. And if they haven't considered those, they haven't considered anything. If we care to make the effort, we could work our way down the list through Israel, the Muslim umma, Europe, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, all of which would be affected by a U.S. retreat, none of them positively, and ask what the Democrats have to say about any of them. Up until now, they haven't been telling.
The sole conclusion to be drawn from all this is that the withdrawal proposals were not made with serious intent. They were never meant to change policy, end the war, or bring a single soldier home. Instead they've acted as a political tool, something with which to harass a detested president, to alarm the opposition party, and to control and manipulate the Democrat's own wild men of the far left.
The surge has thrown a monkey wrench into that smoothly-running little mechanism, and the Democrats don't quite know what to do about it yet. General Petraeus' report is not likely to lay their minds to rest. At last it seems possible that we are going to end up with Iraq becoming something along the lines of what was planned in the first place - a relatively stable, relatively free commonwealth whose people owe us an honor debt.
In light of that, the Democrats' chances of forcing a withdrawal on the administration are nonexistent. They were always unlikely. With Tim Johnson in recovery and Joseph Leiberman voting with the GOP, they simply didn't have the votes. Now withdrawal has become an impossibility, fading back into the untamed reaches of the Net whence it came. It worked well for them - they were able to caper on the edge of the abyss, strike poses, and emit rousing sound bites without ever having to deal with any actual consequences, secure in the knowledge that the grownups would never let things go too far. (At least most of the time. Recall last year's House vote on the fake GOP withdrawal bill.) But now it's over, and they have to play at being serious. Life will be a little bleaker for the Democrats going into the fall session.
The fact that they're pulling this kind of stunt during wartime speaks for itself. Sooner or later, all such actions are judged under the eye of history. In 1944, running a presidential campaign against FDR, Thomas Dewey learned about the U.S. Navy's top-secret "Magic" codebreaking operation, including the role it had played in the Pearl Harbor attack. Dewey had a lot of questions (naturally enough - everybody did). But then he received a letter from Gen. George Marshall appealing to him to keep the codes out of the campaign. The Japanese and Germans knew nothing about Magic, or Ultra, or any of the other codebreaking programs. Revealing them publicly would alert the Axis, enabling them change their codes, and curtailing a critical element of Allied strategy.
Dewey kept his mouth shut -- and lost the election.
Those were different times, alas. But the standards of history remain the same. It is by those standards that the millennial Democrats will be judged, in a more mature age. One wonders if the thought ever crosses their minds.
The surge has demonstrated that a workable strategy, properly executed, can lead us to something resembling the victory that has long eluded us in Iraq. Under those circumstances, withdrawal does not even amount to a choice. Even if a Democrat is elected president next year, she will not make any move to retreat from Iraq, despite her promise in Sioux City to bring the troops home "as soon as we responsibly can". Hillary is already on record as saying that a certain number of troops will have to remain deal with "eventualities". How long will it take for "a certain number" to become "all"?
We are in this thing for the long haul. We may as well win it.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker