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Is it time to get out of Iraq?

By Alan Caruba
web posted May 3, 2004

For some time now I have been writing that the United States needed to get into the Middle East and "drag it into the 2lst century." A nice turn of phrase, but rhetoric does little to change a culture that has been around since the seventh century when Islam began and goes back millennia to the biblical days of the nomadic tribes conjuring up new religions.

What do you do, however, when the people you want to help don't want you to help? Or are fearful of helping themselves if the price is being killed by the enemies of their new freedom?

The Bush Administration is making much of turning over sovereignty on June 30th, but it needs to be a true sovereignty, the right of Iraqis to run their own nation. The transformation will take awhile and we may well be there a long time. (We still have a military presence in both Japan and Germany.) We will have to guarantee that effort. It will be worth it. As I have written in the past, the road to the end of Islamic terrorism runs through Baghdad, Damascus, Riyadh, and ultimately, Tehran.

The United States of America either has the guts to fight on to the end in the very heart of the region that most threatens us or we shall surely suffer a worse fate if we do not. It is no small irony that we have managed to do something even the Muslims could not. We have united the Sunnis and the Shi'ites against us. We have given the entire Middle East an endless series of events with which to portray us as the new infidel "crusaders" that have invaded their sacred lands.

Time to pull them out? U.S. military hospital staff member holds the hand of an injured U.S. serviceman in Camp Falluja, Iraq on May 2
Time to pull them out? U.S. military hospital staff member holds the hand of an injured U.S. serviceman in Camp Falluja, Iraq on May 2

At this crossroads in the Middle East wars, we know we have the firepower, but we don't know if we have patience to see events through to a true victory. That is one thing of which the Arabs have plenty. Remember how Osama bin Laden waited from 1993 until 2001 to finally bring down the Twin Towers after the first failed attempt? Consider how long the Palestinians and all the other surrounding nations of the Middle East have been waiting to destroy the Israelis? Over a half century!

We have liberated Iraq. Saddam and his brutal regime are gone. There is much resistance from a small percentage of the population and some who have joined the insurgents from elsewhere. Our military is stretched thin. In addition to our regular forces, we are using National Guard and Reserves to fight a war in a country the size of California. We can't even drive their highways without suffering casualties. They know it. We know it. The enemy will test our resolve in every way possible.

Though I personally would have already bombed them until the rubble bounced, we have not invaded the "holy cities" of Fallujah or Najah. These places are so "sacred" they stockpiled weapons in their mosques! For now our generals wait on orders that may well determine the future of the conflict in Iraq. In the Middle East, force is understood and respected. This observer does not see a peaceful alternative.

We are between a rock and a hard place right now. The US dares not be perceived, like the Spanish, as having left out of fear. I don't think most Americans would find that acceptable. So long as we remain, however, we will be Iraq's "occupiers." This is unsatisfying to everyone and recent polls in Iraq indicate the Iraqis want the US to leave. It is doubtful, if not impossible, for the Iraqis to form a new, democratic government and to secure it without our support.

Sen. Kerry gave a speech recently saying we have to "internationalize" the war, bring in other nations, NATO, et cetera. Even he can't really believe we are going to achieve this. Neither the French, the Germans, the Russians, nor the Chinese are going to join this effort. What bothers me even more is that just a week earlier he was saying he was behind the White House despite his criticisms. This guy changes his mind so much and so fast he must bump into himself when he turns a corner.

Is it time to leave Iraq? Our nation's safety and the great challenge of Islamist fanaticism bred in the Middle East argues against this. I recall the Vietnam War and I am not comfortable with the occasional feelings of déjà vu, but I don't think Americans will accept the taste of defeat again and leaving now would be a defeat.

Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on www.anxietycenter.com, the website of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba 2004

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