IRAQ: DECLARE VICTORY, BRING SOLDIERS HOME

by Peter Bearse Ph.D

It’s time to declare victory, bring soldiers home and help Iraq to help itself.

First, negate the naysayers and defeat the defeatists. The United States hasn’t “lost” or been defeated in Iraq. Note the highlights of what we have accomplished:

* The overthrow of a brutal dictator.

* “Regime change” -- Introduction of democracy and democratic governance in Iraq, starting with a right to vote exercised by an Iraqi voter turnout averaging over 60% in three national elections.

* Introduction of American power directly into, and smack dab in the middle of, the Middle East, a power to remain there in the form of over three major military bases in Iraq.

* Most important, a sea-change in American foreign policy – from the past, “Cold War” pattern of supporting dictators and otherwise repressive, undemocratic regimes, as long as they were “anti-communist,” to trying to promote and advance democracy worldwide.

* As James Fallows declares in the latest issue of THE ATLANTIC, “We Win” (in fact, have already won) against Al-Qaeda because their “mistakes, and our successes, have sharply reduced the terrorist network’s ability to harm the U.S.”

* Gain crucial intelligence in the form of lessons learned -- how we can more wisely, strategically and cost-effectively implement the new policy in the future.

So, the American soldier in Iraq can stand tall and feel proud. They are true heroes of our American democratic Republic, especially those like Lt. Hoes of a Stryker Brigade, shot while handing out “get out the vote” flyers to Iraqis, who were killed while trying to build democracy in Iraq or reconstruct the country.

Second, don’t let the President, neocons and other discredited leaders try to put American people in the position of having to accept a “bait and switch.” We approved of the war in Iraq so that an Iraqi regime hostile to the U.S. could be removed -- so that it would not be a continuing threat to others in the region, a developer of WMDs, or an incubator of terrorism against the U.S. Bush didn’t run on “nation building” and we didn’t vote for it. The new “surge” strategy of General Petraeus is the one we should have employed from the outset, starting right after the overthrow of Saddam. Now, it’s too little, too late. Moreover, it’s tantamount to a form of nation building that, if continued long-term, would make Iraq a permanent American welfare state. Nevertheless, let’s give Petraeus a chance, for awhile, to see what he can accomplish in terms of increasing security and strengthening the ability of the Iraqi government to help its own people. Later, as we wind down militarily, we can still help the Iraqis help themselves via foreign non-military assistance.

Third, be very skeptical over claims of “disastrous consequences” if we withdraw a major part of American military forces from Iraq. Genocide, a.k.a. “ethnic cleansing” on a small scale, has been going on for months. American withdrawals are not likely to make it worse. We can’t serve as the world’s good-conscience police force. The continuing presence of American bases and of much fewer but more capable American forces, core groups of those that have been truly effective in Iraq – Marines, Special Forces, Seals and Rangers – would provide some insurance against both the return of an undemocratic regime and cross-border intrusions by meddling neighbors.

Fourth, don’t let others, inside or outside the country, lay guilt on us for what has happened in Iraq. We stepped into a pile of shit. That means that some of it rubs off and the stink may linger on our clothes. That doesn’t mean that we’re to blame for Iraqi fratricide, ethnic cleansing, criminal kidnappers, the total breakdown of security or other internecine strife. Nor should we assume that we have either the ability or responsibility to clean up the mess. We still don’t understand the Iraqi colon cancers lurking in the pile we stepped into, so let’s not be “neoconned” again. When we don’t even know their language(s), let’s not be so vain, naïve or stupid as to assume that we know enough of what we’re doing in a foreign culture that we can set it right.

Fifth, let’s recognize that the domestic consequences of the President’s “war of choice” have been harmful. Declaring victory and winding it down gives us a chance, not only to rebuild and reorganize militarily but to revitalize and reform our own democratic Republic. What has been the domestic harm? – huge deficits, long-term debt for the war, over-centralization of our government, loss of civil liberties, increased cynicism, etc. Before we try again to export our democratic system, let’s first revive it here at home so that we again become a beacon for the rest of the world – the “City on a Hill” of which the founders, Lincoln and Reagan liked to remind us.

So, where does all this lead as we look at what’s going on in Washington? – perhaps to a view that the truth is somewhere in between. It’s still clear that the Democrats have little understanding and less strategy to deal with Iraq. At least the President shows some signs of learning from experience, even if it’s “too little, too late.” Democrats are still the “naysayers” running on nothing but negatives – “anybody but Bush” or “get out of Iraq now.” So, it seems as if the Congress is trying to imitate the worst of what they ascribe to the President – ignorance, arrogance and unconstitutionality. Thus, I write in the spirit of Jefferson who wrote: “I know of no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but the people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take power from them, but to inform them…”

PETER BEARSE, Ph.D., author of WE THE PEOPLE: A Conservative Populism [www.politicalcommunity.us], Fremont, NH, 4/21/07, who expects soon to be recalled to Iraq to “help Iraqis help themselves.”