A Decision Reevaluated

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It’s no surprise that the mess in Iraq is at the top of the news. Many people thought it was a bad decision from the get-go and even some of the President’s most ardent supporters are now wondering just what in the hell he’s doing.

At the time of the invasion, I thought it was a mistake. I believed:

  • Far more important work in Afghanistan was incomplete.
  • The run-up to the war was recklessly fast and based on sketchy intelligence.
  • Saddam was not the immediate threat he was said to be, even though I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had been working on WMD.
  • And finally, that the administration appeared to be dangerously unprepared to “win the peace”.

Although I was against the war, I agreed with Colin Powell who warned of the “Pottery Barn Rule” – you break it, you pay for it. I believed that once we crossed the border, we should fix what we’d hamfistedly brought down on the Iraqis. After all, they were innocent bystanders. They hadn’t asked us to invade. We took it upon ourselves to decide what was best for them and they were caught in the cross-fire.

Since then, much has changed. The rationale for the war has morphed from a search for WMD, to building a democracy, to fighting terrorists over there instead of over here. The near-daily reassurances from the administration have evolved from, “they’ll greet us as liberators”, to “mission accomplished, to building a democracy, to democracy taking a long time to build to, “We’re not leaving Iraq while I am in office”.

And during that time, the Iraqis and American have suffered and all the photo ops and catch-phrases doesn’t change that fact on iota.

Today, Iraqis have few of the day-to-day things they used to take for granted – dependable electricity, clean water, kids being able to play outside. Sectarian violence kills them by the thousands while we debate the finer linguistic points of whether we have a civil war on our hands. They spend long days looking over their shoulder for the next car bomb or firefight and we hear a steady chant of “stay the course”.

Our own troops have fared no better. They’re dying by the thousands defending a place that’s increasingly indefensible. Meanwhile, our troops stay longer and longer. Our military is stretched like a camouflaged rubber band, and new and potentially worse challenges wait in the wings.

Many, including me, have criticized the democrats for not being more active in proposing a successful exit strategy. Before rot crept into the administration’s Iraq “strategery”, I hoped that someone – democrat or republican – would be courageous enough to come forward and propose a more workable solution than, “let’s keep keeping on”. Unfortunately, none did and now I believe it’s too late.

So, I find myself reexamining my position on not leaving before Iraq was pacified and rebuilt. I still agreed that the effort would be long and arduous. I still understood that plenty of Americans and Iraqis would die on the rutted road to “democracy”. I still felt that leaving Iraq to chaos was morally wrong. Yet, I changed my mind.

Today, I believe we should leave Iraq. I’m still troubled by abandoning the Iraqis. I’m still troubled that Iraq will be a stinking morass for years to come. I’m still troubled by how many people will die in a war that was avoidable to begin with.

Yet, I changed my mind. All of those reasons to stay are still true, but they are trumped by one thing – staying only makes it worse for everyone.

At this point, regardless of what we do, Iraq will remain in chaos. The only unification the warring sects will find is a hatred of the American infidels. Their civil war will almost certainly spill over into surrounding countries. And, the terrorism Bush currently uses as a bludgeon on his questioners will only intensify.

If people want to call that cutting and running, so be it. I prefer to see as a competent general might. We’re up against a superior force causing a rapidly deteriorating situation only made worse by our very presence. Any good general – or Commander-in-Chief – must evaluate that situation and decide if an orderly retreat to fight another day is a better option than killing thousands of our own and many more thousands of Iraqi lives on a lost cause. This is not a fear-based position, but one of simple war strategy. You don’t continue to waste your forces in a single battle at the expense of the wider needs of the war.

I’ve reevaluated my position and come to peace with it. I would hope that our Commander-in-Chief would do the same, but I expect I’ll be as disappointed in that outcome as I was with the original decision to invade.

Unfortunately, it’s a familiar feeling.

10 thoughts on “A Decision Reevaluated

  1. Chuck,
    I’m not sure how close we were to removing him, but to me it’s immaterial. It wasn’t necessary at the time and it surely wasn’t well thought out. I’m reluctant to leave only because we’re screwing the Iraqis and they didn’t desrve this shit. I can also agree with the argument that we’re only making things worse by staying. If those crapweasels hadn’t pissed away their opportunity to turn things around before things got out of hand, we wouldn’t be having this discussion today and the place wouldn’t be the model of instability it is today.

    Coyote,
    Thanks. Glad you liked it, but would I would have liked even more is if I hadn’t had to write it to begin with.

  2. An excellent piece OP; especially so as tracks (nicely done btw) the variations of justification and obfuscation put forward in relation to the mess that is ‘Iraq’.

    c0y0te

  3. Hi OP,

    We were extremely close to removing Saddam WITHOUT the war when GW pushed the cruise missile buttons.

    We should get out now– the civil war continues BECAUSE we’re there, and the Sunnis see no reason to settle and back off their favored position as long as we’re there to protect them.

    We underestimate the sophistication of the culture– as well as the inevitability that Iraq was put together of different entities by the British so that those entities could fight, and until they split apart, they are going to continue to fight.

    For anyone really interested in reading a history analogy, read David Hackworth’s biography, “About Face”– about his military career in three wars. But especially the part about his time in the Delta. For the life of me, I can’t see the difference. He discovered the harder you pushed, the more the buzzsaw of war pushed back. And he was one of the most decorated soldiers in the Vietnam War.

    Best,

    Chuck

  4. I remember telling the mom of my girlfriend at the time these same concerns I had about the whole possibility of a war in Iraq. She told me I was ‘naive’ to think that Saddam wasn’t involved in 9-11. I responded by saying it’s “naive to think Saddam had anything to do with 9-11 without ANY proof.” Needless to say we never got along too well, and me and that girlfriend aren’t together anymore.

  5. I have a serious but cynical-sounding question, for which I do not have an answer, but I always ask it when I hear someone say “We can’t leave Iraq now, because we can’t abandon the Iraqis.”

    My question is, “Would they miss us?”

    And on days like today, when 60+ people died – not one killed by an American, or saved by one – my question is “Would they even notice?”

  6. Sumo,
    I’m with you on this one. I normally have high regard for our troops and I think, given the circumstances, they are performing above all expectations. But, they’re only as good as those who lead and they SUCK! We probably could “win” Iraq with enough money, a better plan, and thousands more deaths, but we’d still be the loser because of all the damage that’s already occured.

    Mary,
    Thanks for welcoming me to the bosom of your cause, but I’ve been there all along. The only difference was in how to make things turn out for the best. I hope that we’re right, but only history will tell.

    Dave,
    Amen!

    Konagod,
    Yeah, you ARE being too optimistic.

  7. What’s tragic is that not only are we fucked, but Iraq is fucked. The whole world is gonna be fucked.

    (Yeah, call me Mr. Optimistic.)

  8. We broke it, and we’ll be buying it, one way or another, for decades. What I’d really like to see done, is to make the people who broke it (more like threw it on the ground) pay for the damage. In the midst of all this talk about what to do and when to do it, let’s also make “taking responsibility” more than just cheap words in a sound bite. Let’s make them real words with a sound bite.

  9. I welcome you with open arms and probably a kiss! We have to stop this war, it’s criminal and has been from the start. I am deeply concerned that our military has been wrongly used – they do not derserve that. Support the troops – bring them home NOW! Thanks Poobah.

  10. I never wanted it to happen…I was against it. I believe there is no hope…none! I hear him (them) speak of victory…as if there is a choice…as if it could happen. Victory of what? They indeed are worse off than they were before little Georgie got his fat little fingers in the pie of Iraq. They are undone…and so shall we be for the legacy he will have left these people to. They certainly didn’t deserve it. And we know that when and if a democrat takes the oval office…they will be taking blame for it. I’ve heard them mention we can’t leave now and let the world think of us as having failed. That sooooo pisses me off. Who cares…if it saves lives…who cares if it manages to get this madness stopped. This victory word carries a heavy load…and I want the Republicans to carry that load on their backs for a long time (historically). Let it be talked of as “their war”…and that they stayed for the last drop of blood…because they had the temerity to use the word victory in the same breath as freedom.

Give Us Some Choice Words