Yesterday, I was cruising thru the Chicago Tribune, that someone had left on the kitchen table at work. I came across an editorial called "No deadline, no retreat". It was so good, that I shared it with a couple of people at work. As I am driving home from work last night- I flipped on the radio and heard Mark Belling reading this article. This editorial is just good.
Since it takes a password to access the Chicago Tribune online- I will post the editorial in it's entirety.
No deadline, no retreat
Published June 23, 2006
Have you ever been in a fight? No, a real fight, with blood and pain and fear. Many of us weren't built for that moment. But when it arrives, invited by our choice or our vulnerability, its sidekick is a terrible realization: There are no easy outs. One of us will prevail, one of us will surrender.
That's a weak analogy to the 3-year-old war in Iraq; no face-off between two individuals carries the immense stakes of what's happening right now, half a world away. But in both cases, blood and pain and fright do play leading roles. So it is that an anguished debate about a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq filled the U.S. Senate this week. It was a debate laced with misgivings and resolve, politics and pride, frustration and patriotism. It was also a debate in which, as has happened before, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) best synthesized the choice that weary and anxious Americans now face: "The options on the table have been there from the beginning: Withdraw and fail, or commit and succeed."
Crisp speechifying, yes. But there lie dragons. Committing to win in Iraq means embracing gains like the elimination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi--and it means more butchery like the beheading of two American servicemen. It means embracing the courage of Iraqi citizens now struggling for their freedom--and it means the uneasiness of American citizens aghast at the barbarity of it all. It means embracing the truth that there are no easy outs. One side in this war will prevail, one side in this war will surrender.
The debate in our Senate, like the debate in our kitchens and our streets, embodies the vigor of our democracy. It must, though, perplex the extremists.
This month alone, those extremists have seen al-Zarqawi's still, ashen face on their TV screens. They have seen us recoil in horror at the two beheadings. And now, in the space of a few days, the extremists have seen this nation's elected representatives vote four times not to withdraw our troops from Iraq--or, euphemistically, not to "redeploy" them.
Withdrawal has been a rising theme in our public discourse for several months. Why, the extremists must wonder, won't the U.S. just pack up and leave them alone?
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The House and Senate have weighed and rejected the consequences of a premature withdrawal from Iraq. Just as they have weighed and accepted the benefits that a U.S. victory would bring. We as a people decided a national election based largely on those considerations in 2004; we will have another in 2006, and another in 2008.
Our troops, by being in Iraq, have backstopped the creation of a functioning democracy in what was a dictator's playpen. They have trained the Iraqi security forces that are now absorbing more of the burden for establishing stability there.
Those developments--a self-sustaining government, a sufficient indigenous security force--have always been the two necessary precursors for an American drawdown in Iraq. They still are. The question is whether we appreciate the Iraqi people's tremendous if unfinished progress toward those goals. Congressional votes against withdrawal-by-timetable suggest that, despite the carnage, that message is coming through. By stark majorities, our representatives have said they do not want all that has occurred in Iraq to be for naught.
A few weeks ago, national security specialist Frederick W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute wrote an influential essay that's still knocking around policy circles in Washington. He argued that abandoning Iraq--telling the Iraqis to sink or swim--is "tantamount to telling them to drown."
Some days, that message may be tempting. But Kagan argued that it ignores a perspective we don't often read: "[H]undreds of thousands of Iraqis have volunteered for the most dangerous duty in their land, fighting insurgents with inadequate training and equipment. ... Iraqi government officials have persevered despite improved explosive devices, mortar and rocket attacks, kidnappings and assassination attempts.
"It is difficult to see how it might be necessary to `incentivize' people fighting bravely in the face of greater danger to themselves and their families than Americans have faced since the Civil War."
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So how do Americans feel about this costly U.S. commitment?
Many feel exhausted, impatient, dispirited. We like linear plots with happy endings. Nobody signed up for a war this long.
What matters most right now, though, is not how we feel, but how our enemies feel.
Do they feel that they're losing, that they have neither won over the Iraqi people nor forced us to retreat?
Or do they feel that ghastly killings of American troops (and innocent Iraqis) are having their intended effect? Do they feel that if they hold out, they can recreate the Husseinesque slaughterhouse they yearn for--and exterminate Iraqis who cooperated with the invaders?
We can, of course, leave whenever we wish. To do so would betray the Iraqi officials and citizens who trust us to shepherd them to safety. It would tell every terror group, every future enemy, how to defeat America next. And, at a time when rogue states such as North Korea and Iran need us internationally weak rather than strong, it would signal that in future crises our saber will rattle feebly, like a death rasp in the night.
The American men and women who are fighting this war do so with one eye over their shoulders. We have argued for three years whether the timetable for bringing them home should be set by politicians in Washington or by their success in the field. Once again, through our legislators, we have voted decisively for the latter.
So let us keep thinking about how we feel. But let us also think about how our enemies feel.
They, too, know that there are no easy outs. One of us will prevail, one of us will surrender.
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune