Friday, September 24, 2004
Iraq: Why US Shouldn't Cut and Run
Kerry has it all wrong. This is a must read!
Amir Taheri, Arab News
What was bound to happen, has happened: Sen. John Kerry has decided to adopt Sen. Edward Kennedy's slogan: Iraq is another Vietnam!
For months, the Democratic Party's presidential nominee, resisting the temptation of following the senior senator for Massachusetts, continued to defend his initial support for a war that destroyed one of modern history’s most barbarous regimes. By last week, however, it had become clear that Kerry could not be both pro-war and anti-war in this campaign. Having made his calculations he decided to recast himself as a more sober version of Howard Dean, the early champion of the anti-war faction.
Kerry's shift should be welcomed by those who want the presidential campaign to deal with the substance of issues rather than conspiracy theories, real or imagined heroics in the Mekong Delta, and real or forged National Guard documents, dating back 30 years.
In the larger scheme of things, Iraq per se may not be the ur-issue of future global politics. If Iraq has any importance it is as the first major test of American power in reshaping the Middle East in the post-Cold War era.
The two positions now on offer differ on four issues: The genesis of the war, the results of the war so far, future actions, and an exit strategy.
First, let us deal with the genesis of the war.
President George W. Bush's position is well known. He claims that Saddam, having started two major wars, violated more than a dozen United Nations resolutions, hosted 23 international terror organizations, and adopted a threatening posture toward the US and its allies, was, in the words of President Bill Clinton in the year 2000, "a time-bomb" that had to be defused. Bush's view is supported by many across the world, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a majority of the NATO allies, and most members of the European Union.
Kerry's position is the opposite.
He asserts that Saddam, though an unsavory fellow, was no threat, at least not to the United States, and that there was no legal basis for toppling him. Kerry's view in this regard is supported by many, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has just decreed the war illegal, France’s President Jacques Chirac, and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.
Kerry's analysis strengthens Annan’s claim that the US has no right to go to war without the express permission of the UN.
Next, we have the results of the war so far. Again Bush's position is clear. The president claims that the toppling of Saddam and his Baathist terror machine made Iraq and the world better places. This view is shared by a majority of the Iraqis who fought the Baathist tyranny for three decades with no prospects of victory until the US-led coalition arrived. That Iraqis are happy that Saddam is gone is illustrated by the return of virtually all Iraqi refugees from neighboring countries. As for the Middle East being a better place without Saddam, all one has to do is to ask Iraq's neighbors, especially those that had suffered from his wars of aggression.
Kerry's position is the opposite: Not only Iraq is not a better place without Saddam, but the toppling of the despot has also worsened the situation in the Middle East and, by diverting American resources from fighting other terrorists, made the US less safe. Kerry's analysis is shared by many, including the UN, the French, some Arab governments, anti-American lobbies across the globe, and Bush-bashers inside the United States.
Thirdly, the American voter now has a clear choice of future policies.
Bush's policy is summed up in the phrase "staying the course."
Tony Blair agrees. Last week he described Iraq as "the crucible in which the future of global terrorism will be determined."
The Bush-Blair analysis is based on the assumption that the last area of the world to breed anti-West terrorists is the Middle East, a region unaffected by the wave of democratization that began with the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The argument is that since democracies do not breed terrorists, the only way to ensure the long- term safety and security of Western democracies, including the United States and the European Union, is to democratize the Middle East, by force if necessary.
Bush and Blair see Iraq as the first building bloc of a new democratic Middle East which could emerge as a zone of stability and peace rather than one of war and terrorism.
Kerry's rejects that. He believes that it is none of the United States' business to meddle in other people's affairs, especially when this involves the use of force. All the US need to do is to strengthen its domestic anti- terrorism defenses, and be prepared to retaliate if and when attacked.
Taking pre-emptive action against potential adversaries, even in the name of self- defense, is a form of "neo-imperialism."
Finally, there is the issue of an exit strategy.
Kerry claims that Bush has none. This is not quite accurate. Bush's exist strategy was clear from the start and has been endorsed by the two latest resolutions of the UN Security Council. It envisages the US-led coalition staying in Iraq until a freely elected Iraqi government asks it to leave. This gives the Iraqi people, provided they adopt democracy, a direct say in deciding whether or not they need foreign troops on their soil. At the same time it makes the withdrawal of coalition forces conditional on the establishment of a democratic system that will not breed terrorism.
Kerry's exist strategy, on the other hand, reflects his belief that Iraq is another Vietnam. He is not proposing a "last chopper from Saigon" strategy that would not look good on television.
Kerry’s exist strategy could be described as "cut and whistle your way out."
Kerry has laid out four steps in his exist plan: Repair alliances, train Iraqi security forces, improve reconstruction, and ensure elections. And then, "we could begin to withdraw US forces starting next summer."
The four steps suggested by Kerry were adopted as US policy over a year ago. What is new in Kerry’s position is that he sets dates for bringing American troops home, regardless of whether or not US strategic goals are achieved. It is in this sense that, if Kerry is elected, Iraq could, indeed, become another Vietnam. (emphasis:mine)
It is important to remember what happened in Vietnam.
The US made huge human and material sacrifices to enable the people of South Vietnam from falling under a Communist dictatorship sponsored by the USSR and China. The American effort was successful in military terms and, after the Tet Offensive, there was little doubt that the Communist threat in Vietnam had been contained as it had been in the Korean Peninsula two decades earlier. Nevertheless, the US did cut and run, abandoning the people of South Vietnam, not because the Vietcong had won the war but because American public opinion adopted the "cut- and- run strategy" which John Kerry, then a young veteran, advocated.
The rest is history. Communist tyranny was imposed over the whole of Vietnam which, rather than developing a vibrant industrialized democracy like South Korea or Taiwan, became a poor and captive nation in a system rejected by history.
America’s "cut- and- run" strategy in Indochina emboldened the USSR and gave it a new lease of life. It encouraged the Soviets to expand their empire into Africa and Asia while strengthening stranglehold over half of Europe.
A new version of "cut- and- run" in Iraq could embolden those whose strategic aim is the destruction of the West and its current standard-bearer, the US. Were the US to cut and run in Iraq, such people will receive a tremendous boost. And that would be deadly news for Americans, regardless of who sits in the White House.
There is one big difference between Vietnam and Iraq.
The enemy in Vietnam, ultimately the Soviet Union, played the classical game of building an empire and extending its glacis. It could be contained in the context of a balance of thermonuclear terror deterrent. Open to détente, it would not send suicide-bombers to kill thousands of civilians in the heart of the United States.