TCS Daily


In Pursuit of Abject Surrender

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - February 1, 2005 12:00 AM

As the eyes of the world were turning to Iraq in anticipation of the country's first free elections in decades, powerful politicians at the highest levels of the United States government began to urge a precipitous withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. The most prominent of these politicians was Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who called for the creation and implementation of a specific timeline to bring American troops home. Stating that American troops had become "part of the problem" in Iraq, and comparing the conflict in Iraq to -- wait for it! -- Vietnam, Senator Kennedy called for 12,000 American troops to leave the country "at once" (this is, of course, in sharp contrast to the traditional Democratic talking point stating that the Bush Administration needs to send more troops to Iraq), a complete withdrawal of the American military presence "as early as possible in 2006," and the enactment of administrative measures that would "dramatically reduce the size of the American Embassy" in Iraq (this is in sharp contrast to the traditional Democratic talking point stating that the Bush Administration has not given and does not give diplomacy and soft power enough of a chance before resorting to hard power and military force).

Make no mistake: Reconstruction would fail if Senator Kennedy's words were transformed into policy. A withdrawal of as many as 12,000 troops "at once" would give Iraqi citizens increased reason to fear for their lives. If we take it as a given that American troops are indeed overstretched -- as many Democrats and others have claimed that they are -- how much more burdened will they be if Senator Kennedy's call for an immediate partial withdrawal gains respectability and becomes influential? How much easier would it be for the terrorist insurgency in Iraq -- headed by a high profile member of al Qaeda -- to undermine the creation and success of any democratic Iraqi government if the insurgents see American manpower as depleted as Senator Kennedy would want? How much easier would it be for the insurgency to plan future terror operations aimed at either making Iraq ungovernable or turning it into the same kind of terrorist base camp that Afghanistan was in the Taliban era if the terrorists could count on all American troops leaving Iraq by a date certain and knowing that after that date, no serious military force would be present in the country to counter the depredations of the insurgency? And how seriously would the Arab world -- or the international community in general -- take America's commitment to a new Iraq if we "dramatically" reduced our embassy in Iraq, and publicly showed that we have no confidence whatsoever in the future of the country, or, for that matter, in the future of the Middle East as a whole?

Even more amazingly, as it became clear that the elections in Iraq were a tremendous success despite the attempts of the terrorist insurgents to disrupt the elections, Senator Kennedy actually augmented his call for a premature American withdrawal from Iraq:

        "In a statement today, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass, said Bush 'must 
        look beyond the election.'

        "'The best way to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that we have no 
        long-term designs on their country is for the administration to withdraw 
        some troops now' and negotiate further withdrawals, Kennedy added.

To which one would naturally respond by pointing out that by going out in droves to vote for their own government, the Iraqi people made it clear to all but Senator Kennedy that they understand that we have no long-term designs on their country. After all, why vote if you think that you are just going to end up being the puppets of Americans? And who in their right mind decides to respond to an excellent job of peacekeeping by American troops during the election and the run-up to it by demanding that those same troops come home? But this obvious retort appears to fall on deaf ears, as Senator Harry Reid, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, has also responded to the historic vote in Iraq by echoing Senator Kennedy's demands for an "exit strategy" -- which essentially means that he is prepared to assist Senator Kennedy in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

It would be nice to think that this pettiness and short-sightedness could simply be waved away and ignored. Unfortunately, it cannot. Powerful members of the U.S. Congress are loudly insisting on a course of action that would have disastrous consequences for both Iraq and for American credibility. There must be a serious and concentrated effort to push back against Senator Kennedy's ill-considered proposals. This entails pointing out over and over the degree to which the elections in Iraq represent a hugely positive step in the reconstruction of the country, and the degree to which American security interests are invested in the successful rebirth of Iraq. We can, after all, still lose the peace in Iraq. And if irresponsible rhetoric such as that proffered by Senator Kennedy is translated into national policy, we will.

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