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October 25, 2006

Political Price Aside: Stand by Iraq


“There is no option for the international community to cut and run. The fate of Iraq is vital to the future of the Middle East and the world order.”


This quote is not from Tony Blair, George W. Bush or any of his neocons. This instead is from Iraqi deputy prime minister Barham Salih, repeating an oft-heard Iraqi cry for the West to continue supporting the troubled country. As we near crucial elections in a few weeks, it is indeed worth remembering the stakes.


The fact of the matter is, one’s position on the Iraq War in the winter of 2003 is largely irrelevant in deciding whether the coalition should pull out of Iraq today. Critics can disagree with the premise of the coalition being there, and have the right to blame decision-makers for the difficult situation in the Middle East at this time, if they so see it. But one position on the war that is entirely irrational is that of pulling troops out of Iraq, whether immediately, over months or perhaps even within a few years.


Withdrawing our troops from Iraq would essentially abandon the country to terrorists and radicals, leaving us with a mess that is far worse than that with which we started. Such an action would create a playground for Iran, Syria, Turkey, the Kurds, the Gulf states and terrorist groups in a land so strategically located. And you must know how much fun such a playground would be – nothing short of a blast!


The barely-reserved global tension between Sunnis and Shiites could very well turn into an enormous conflagration unless leading powers in the Middle East are controlled. No one claims that a coalition success in Iraq would ensure an eternal peace between the two factions, but a coalition loss is virtually guaranteed to serve as the spark that could destabilize not only the Middle East, but the entire world.


As much as we Americans support our men and women in uniform and value their lives, the prospect of an anarchic Iraq, along with the global deterioration that it would surely instigate, is simply not worth the immediate gratification of saving an average of 64 soldiers a month for what would be a short period of time. When a full-blown Iraqi civil war drags much of the Middle Eastern and world communities down with it, it is inevitable that Americans would have to pick up their guns in much bigger numbers, and die at a much faster rate.


The Bush administration and Republicans want to defeat a true quagmire by preventing it from starting in the first place. Although Iraq is in a poor shape today, it remains far from how bad it can become. Signs of progress are encouraging and widely underreported: the country is on the whole getting wealthier, much of it is actually safe and quiet, and the chaotic parts are increasingly becoming the responsibility of a growing and strengthening Iraqi military.


If Republicans wanted to ensure a victory in November, they could have done so quite easily simply by being weak on Iraq. On this critical issue, the Republicans have put the long-term well-being of the country ahead of immediate gains for their party. Democrats, on the other hand, as exemplified in their demands for the withdrawal of troops (and their failure to act on Social Security, school choice, etc.), show behavior with severely misplaced priorities – immediate gratification precedes sustainability and long-term benefit.


Yet, ironically, Democrats pride themselves on changing their position on the Iraq War when the going gets tough, and criticize Republicans for being solid on the issue. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer recently criticized Michael Steele, the GOP nominee for the Senate in his home state of Maryland for being “an unwavering supporter of the Republican agenda,” with the Iraq War playing a large role in the background.


It is actually quite bizarre to attack someone for being blatantly and proudly unwavering in support of an unpopular agenda. If Michael Steele wanted to win in Maryland, he would call for withdrawal from Iraq (and no, as we saw in Rhode Island, such a move wouldn’t lose him the support of the Republican establishment).


For Steele to take a position that is largely detested in his home state and injurious to his campaign, he must be doing so because he believes it is best for his country. So if Democrats wish to attack Republicans for being steadfast in their support for a democratic Iraq, that is up to them. They might win the battle at the polls this time around, but they just might have to fight a tougher battle with their conscience.

© 2006 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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