The Cost of Democrats' Defeatism

Deborah Haynes, the UK Times' correspondent in Baghdad, has recently put her finger on perhaps the greatest difficulty we face in Iraq today: The reluctance of many pro-American Iraqis to help us, because they fear we may cut and run. This is what Haynes wrote:

US troops have had some success in winning the confidence of members of the community by pushing out into previously unexplored neighbourhoods as part of President Bush's surge plan. However, many Iraqis refuse to believe that the American presence will stay for very long. These people remain fearful of offering up tips on where they know insurgents have placed roadside bombs because they fear being killed once the US troops leave. ‘I cannot help the coalition because I worry that the soldiers will leave and the terrorists will come back to kill me,' said Mokdat Ahmed Shahib, a 40-year-old security guard in the village.
This fear is easy to understand given the current climate in America where a major political party is urging retreat. Should the democrats prevail, all those who have cooperated would become reprisal targets for some of the most ruthless cutthroats on this planet.

Faced with this prospect, many sympathizing Iraqis do not dare to reveal what they may have heard or seen about planned ambushes or roadside bombs. Thus the Democrats' withdrawal-mongering is costing American lives.

Democrats are fond of talking about winning the ‘hearts and minds' of the Iraqi people. The best way to do this is by projecting strength and uncompromising commitment to victory. Ordinary Iraqis need to be reassured that they will not be tortured or killed or both if they throw their lot with us. In other words, if we want their cooperation we must look, act and talk like winners. It is the natural human inclination to want to join the winning side, but it is admittedly difficult for Iraqis to see us as victors when so many Democrats have already declared defeat.

The most tragic consequence of this is the needless loss of our troops when people like Mokdat Ahmed Shahib withhold crucial information, because, as he says: "I worry that the soldiers will leave and the terrorists will come back to kill me." Can anyone blame him?

There is no reason why this man - and others like him - should ever harbor such a fear. Our military is the most powerful fighting force in history. There is no army in the world that can stand up to it, especially not the slapdash assortment of jihadists we currently face in Iraq. They can only prevail if we abandon the battlefield which, remarkably enough, is precisely what the democrats are trying to accomplish.

Given the Democrats' subversion, we must marvel at the courage of those Iraqis who have taken our side. They truly had a hard choice to make. If we finish the job, their country will embark on a rocky road to democracy from which few tangible benefits will accrue to those who have risked their lives for it. But if the Democrats have their way and we run many of those who have worked with us will face death and that of the most brutal kind.

The rational decision - one based on a calculation of potential costs and benefits - would be to stay away from the Americans. But many Iraqis have shown that there is more to the equation than this. The appeal of freedom, the desire to do what is right, and unwillingness to capitulate to evil can apparently be powerful motivators too. So powerful is their pull it can even outweigh the possibility of death and torture.

Odd as it may sound to self-indulgent ears, there are still people who think that some things are worth dying for. Some of them are our fellow-citizens who risk and give their lives because they believe that there is more to life than self-interest. It is too bad that American Democrats know so little about these noble impulses and base all their decisions on the prospect of political gain. The fact that many of the brave Iraqis who stand with the Democrats' own country in the war they themselves initially supported will be left to die apparently bothers them not a bit.

In addition to costing lives of our troops and their Iraqi friends, the Democrats' defeatism has seriously damaged our position in the world. The psychological mechanism that applies on the individual level is also applicable to the international scene: states, just like individuals, are inclined to join the winner. The problem is that the Democrats are doing all in their power to make us look like losers in Iraq. Having made America appear wavering in the face of hardship, we now have fewer allies than we would have if we kept projecting unity and resolve.

We can only imagine how much further along we could have been in the war on terror had the Democrats joined in the effort instead of sabotaging it. For one thing, we would have long ago won the ‘hearts and minds' of those like Mokdat Ahmed Shahib who would not be afraid to offer up potentially life-saving intelligence, because they are afraid we may cut and run. Likewise, vacillating states would flock to our cause. We had no shortage of allies during the Reagan years when America conveyed an image of power, confidence and victory. Everybody wanted to be our friend then and understandably so.

Not so today, which is no surprise in light of Democrats' unrelenting defeatism. Before the surge had even properly begun, Harry Reid, America's most powerful elected democrat, rushed to the microphones and pronounced it a failure in front of the whole world. Who in their right mind would want to ally themselves with losers?

If we succeed in Iraq, it will be despite the democrats' best efforts. Those who care for this country can only hope that the American people will not forget their treachery and hold them responsible for the steep costs their actions have incurred.