Home/Daniel Larison/Don’t Call It A Quagmire…Just Because We’ve Been There For Years

Don’t Call It A Quagmire…Just Because We’ve Been There For Years

In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we face a vicious insurgency that has worn down the will of the American public. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we have failed to cut off the enemy from re-supply. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we have had ever-shifting military strategies. In Iraq, as in Vietnam, we have had trouble building effective, clean governmental institutions in the soil of an alien culture. Most importantly, in Iraq, as in Vietnam, we face the prospect of defeat. ~Rich Lowry, National Review

It does perplex me more than a little how people who foresaw these things and warned against them even before the invasion were horrible, terrible people to make their objections known back then when it might have done some good, but that it is somehow a mark of wisdom and prudence to admit that things are going down the tubes months or years after everyone else has already done so. To make the same arguments about lack of strategy, incompetence and failure today that we made four years ago is suddenly to be responsible, whereas it used to be dangerous and disloyal and even “unpatriotic” in the unhinged minds of some. Go figure.

Now one looks in vain in Mr. Lowry’s article for anything resembling the “positive” proposals that he faults the Democrats for not having, and the entirety of NRJoe has been bemoaning the one actual proposal that some Democrats–and a considerable portion of the American public–support, namely phased or complete withdrawal. (Kevin Drum notes a similar lack of any “positive” contributions from Bill Kristol’s latest editorial.) The only practicable option that is in American control (because Mr. Bush has outsourced a supposedly vital national security question to the likes of Mr. Maliki) is withdrawal, and yet this is the one that the GOP and all its minions refuse to consider for a moment.

Iraq has harmed American interests; the damage there is done. It will only get worse as we continue in that unfortunate country. The people who took us into this war and cheered it on have no credibility in advising anyone about foreign policy; they have extremely poor judgement in assessing what a given policy will and will not achieve. Why on earth should anyone listen to them now?

What would be worse: to have Iraq fall apart under our very noses, or to extricate ourselves from the disaster before it explodes in our faces? Those are the realistic options. If that offends the precious sensibilities of those who have no understanding of the Near East, the limits of power or the priority of the national interest over other considerations, important as they may be in some ways, I don’t much care. Their precious sensibilities got us into this mess; their deep concern for the Iraqi people, whose country they have destroyed, got us into this mess. The least they could do is get our soldiers out of it. If we think of Iraq as a live grenade and not as a precious piece of fine democratic china, we will put as much distance between ourselves and it as we can, and we will see that this is the only sane thing to do.

It is regrettable that Mr. Bush illegally committed us to an unjust war for no good reason that he was unprepared to fight and which he and his administration never properly understood, but why are American soldiers and the American people being forced to continue to pay for his grievous errors? There comes a time when you must say that enough is enough and that you will not pour more American blood into the desert and pull down America’s reputation even more to chase the will o’ the wisp that is a victory that was lost long ago. There might, might, have been a chance for some kind of victory three years ago. In the last year that chance almost certainly vanished. It is not returning. At this point we can let our country and our armed forces be dragged down still more, or we can do the necessary damage control that is in our national interest, which must be the priority at this point, and depart from the unfolding tragedy of a land that the supporters of this war have irretrievably turned into a charnel house.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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