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A Reagan realist cost-benefit analysis for the war in Iraq

By David T. Pyne
web posted March 27, 2006

The object of fighting every war ought to be to create a more favorable and enduring peace after it has been brought to a victorious end. In fighting wars, the statesman-historians among us ask who it is that benefits from the war and its aftermath. In Vietnam where we fought a no-win counterinsurgency war for the better part of a decade, the US military won all the battles, but lost the war due to a losing strategy pursued by the politicians at home which all but guaranteed defeat. The result was that the Democrat-led Congress cut off any US attempts to contain the Communist advance over the next eight years resulting in many countries falling into the Soviet sphere of influence during this period.

After the Second World War, the Soviet Union emerged as the only real victor, filling the vacuum created by the brutal destruction and dismemberment of Germany and the defeat of Japan by the Allies. The Soviets ended up inheriting a vast empire in eastern Europe and Asia awarded to Stalin by Communist appeasers Churchill and FDR at the infamous Yalta and Potsdam Conferences. By virtue of this victory, they were able to mass murder and enslave tens of millions of innocents, their Chinese Communist allies were enabled to seize control of mainland China, and subsequently to threaten the United States and the West with total nuclear annihilation coming perilously close to winning the Cold War, which the West was forced to fight on very disadvantageous terms.

American soldiers in IraqBy virtue of the US invasion of Iraq and removal of Iran's arch-enemy Saddam Hussein and subsequent support of their Shiite Islamist proxies, the Islamic Republic of Iran has acquired a new vassal state in Iraq, purchased at a rising cost in American blood and treasure. Meanwhile, according to CIA Director Porter Goss, al-Qaida has acquired a new terror haven and training ground to better kill American soldiers and civilians in Iraq, providing it with a new base from which to launch terrorist attacks to kill Americans here at home. So at this point it can be said that Iran, its Shiite Islamist proxies in Iraq, and al-Qaida have been the chief beneficiaries of our continued prosecution of a never-ending, no-win counterinsurgency war in Iraq, which is increasingly resembling that which we fought and lost on the other side of the Asian continent in Vietnam decades ago.

While our number one state sponsor of terror enemy, Iran, has been greatly empowered as a rising nuclear-armed regional hegemon which largely controls and dominates Iraq through its Islamist Shiite proxy government, the United States on the other hand appears to have nothing to show for its continued prosecution of the war in Iraq in terms of benefits. Finally, as a result of our ill-considered invasion and occupation of Iraq, Israel is now and will be more at risk from Iranian nuclear missiles and Islamic terror attacks than ever before. So my question is how exactly does our continued occupation of Iraq further the cause of a better, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, let alone in any way advance the US national security interest? The occupation of Iraq, it seems, violates every tenet of the Reagan-Weinburger-Powell Doctrine of just wars which hold that America only fights when it has to either in defense of its own national security or to help defend another nation unjustly attacked.

It is kind of like déjà vu to re-watch President Bush's May 1, 2003 speech in front of a huge banner that read, "Mission accomplished" on board the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, in which he announced that "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." When we stop to consider how much the situation in Iraq has deteriorated and how much worse the war has gone for us since that time, the President's declaration of victory seems premature. Given the fact that nearly 2,200 American soldiers or about sixteen times as many Americans who had died in Iraq previous to that time have died since Bush's speech that day, it seems apparent that major combat operations have long since resumed, seriously complicating a future presidential declaration of victory. In fact, during a press conference on March 20th, President Bush declared that the Iraq war would continue beyond his presidency, all but admitting that victory in this no-win war is all but unachievable despite all his rosy rhetoric to the contrary.

Normally, I write editorials which are limited to arguing a point about which I feel passionate. This time I decided to do something different. As all of my readers are no doubt aware, there is a significant difference of opinion between what I call the Reagan conservative realists and the neocons led by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in regards to whether "staying the course", which effectively means continuing a failed policy which is resulting in us losing the war, is justified in Iraq. It doesn't take a general to understand that if the strategy you are employing to fight a war is not working, then it is necessary to change course and try a new one, something that the Bush administration has repeatedly refused to do. On the other hand, if victory is not possible, military and strategic prudence demands a rapid termination to one's involvement in the war on the best terms possible. Again, the Bush administration has stubbornly refused to even entertain an exit strategy as mandated by the Reagan-Weinburger-Powell doctrine which is nothing more or less than a restatement of the American tradition for fighting just wars, which has been generally adhered to over the past 230-odd years by US Presidents far wiser than the current occupant of the Oval Office.

I have decided to conduct a survey and would welcome any supporters of the war to participate. Colonel Douglas MacGregor, whose plan to invade Iraq was largely adopted by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, stated in an interview back in June 2005 that Bush's mistake was not in invading Iraq, but in deciding to outlast our welcome by engaging in a Clintonian nation-building exercise in Iraq. He said we began losing the war when the mission changed from regime change to occupying the Sunni triangle in perpetuity many years after we bagged Saddam in December 2003 by which time we had only lost about 460 troops or so as opposed to the 2,315 KIA total today. MacGregor argued that we should have withdrawn our troops to the Iraqi periphery at that time thus avoiding 81 per cent of the current US troop casualties we have incurred since the invasion began in March 2003.

Let us all put aside our partisan Republican and Democrat blinders for the purposes of this exercise and presuppose that the US invasion of Iraq to overthrow and capture Saddam Hussein was the right decision and that Bush acted in good faith when he gave what we now know were erroneous justifications for the invasion. Let us further suppose that the US occupation of Iraq from March—December 2003 when Saddam was captured was also fully justified and that the 460 or so American lives that were sacrificed up to that time were worth losing in furtherance of that end. The question then changes from whether the invasion of Iraq was justified and whether we were lied to by Bush, et al, in the run-up to the war to whether the never-ending occupation of Iraq from December 2003 to the present is justified. Since I have already listed the costs, I challenge any and all supporters of the war to answer the following questions and list all of the benefits of our continued occupation of Iraq which would justify the cost of President Bush's repeated call to ‘stay the course' in Iraq:

1. What have we accomplished between December 2003 and the present day to justify the increasing loss in American blood and treasure since that time totaling nearly 1,000 American dead and nearly $200 billion a year? (Just think about the thousands of neutron-warhead tipped land-based ABM interceptors we could build to safeguard our country against nuclear attack by any nuclear power or how secure we could make our border against illegal immigrant invaders and terrorist infiltrators if even a small fraction of this total were added to our annual defense budgets!!!)

2. What will we accomplish by continuing to fight the Iraq war for the next 3-10 years as Bush and Rumsfeld have suggested they plan to do?

3. Why are we sacrificing American lives to help the Iranian-proxy Islamist revolutionary government of Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, leader of Iraq's al-Dawa (Islamic Call) Party, previously cited by the US State Department as a terrorist organization, remain in power? This question is especially relevant in view of the fact that according to Bush-backed former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (who I support to lead Iraq) "they (the Shiite Islamist government of Iraq) are as bad as Saddam" due to their killing and torture of hundreds if not thousands of Sunni opposition leaders and members.

4. Even assuming the Islamist fundamentalist government of Iraq constituted a reliable US ally and did not serve as an Iranian-proxy government, why is it worth the sacrifice of thousands of US lives and up to $2 trillion in US taxpayer funds during the next ten years to effectively take sides in the now three-year long Iraqi Civil War against the secular Sunni opposition fighting to avert the Islamist revolution now being implemented by the Islamist Iraqi government?

5. What is the exit strategy? What are the milestones of success/victory in Iraq which once met would trigger a US withdrawal from Iraq?

6. Please specify how much lost American blood and treasure would be too much to achieve those ends and how many years of fighting this no-win war would be too many? As a bonus question, please answer the question of how long we should have spent fighting our just, but no-win war in Vietnam while President Johnson and Nixon would not allow us to win it by invading North Vietnam?

As someone who is trying hard to understand why at least 30 per cent of the American people still support 'staying the course' and continuing to pursue a strategy in Iraq which all but guarantees our defeat, I look forward to receiving some considered responses. I will report and comment on readers' responses in my next editorial.

David T. Pyne, Esq. is a national security expert who currently serves as President of the Center for the National Security Interest, a national security think-tank devoted to championing policies, which serve to enhance U.S. national security. He also serves as the President of the New Mexico Republican Assembly and as a Vice President of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies. Mr. Pyne is a licensed attorney and former United States Army Officer. He holds an MA in National Security Studies from Georgetown University. He is also a Contributing Editor to DefenseWatch magazine and to Soldiers for the Truth. Mr. Pyne has been published on WorldNetDaily.com and on several other conservative opinion websites including Etherzone, the Washington Dispatch, the American Reformation Project, the American Partisan, OpinioNet, the Patriotist, Enter Stage Right, Intellectual Conservative, News with Views, America's Voices, and the Sierra Times. He has been invited to appear on CNBC, Regional News Network and was invited to serve as an occasional Fox News commentator to express his views on assorted public policy issues. He has also been interviewed on assorted radio-talk shows. Mr. Pyne is presently writing a book entitled, "The New Islamic Empire of Iran--How the US Invasion and Occupation of Iraq is Helping to Forge It Into the Next Regional Hegemon of the Persian Gulf." He serves as the moderator of the Iraq Victory Yahoo! Newsgroup dedicated to championing a strategy designed to lead to a quick victory in Iraq to be followed by an immediate withdrawal of US forces. David T. Pyne can be reached at pyne@national-security.org. © 2005 David T. Pyne


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