Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Count the cost of failure

From The Washington Post:

President Bush implored lawmakers and the nation last night to give him one more chance to win the war in Iraq and avoid the "nightmare scenario" of defeat while presenting a domestic agenda intended to find common cause with the new Democratic Congress on issues such as energy and immigration.

Politically wounded but rhetorically unbowed, Bush gave no ground on his decision to dispatch 21,500 more troops to Iraq despite a bipartisan cascade of criticism. Addressing for the first time a Congress controlled by the other party, Bush challenged Democrats to "show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory" and warned that the consequences of failure in Iraq "would be grievous and far-reaching."

We will leave aside the areas in which the president wishes to find common cause with the socialists (the areas were he wants to sell out the nation, in other words) for another post. Right now I want to focus on what he said about Iraq.

You might think that going to war in Iraq was the greatest mistake ever in the history of presidential mistakes. Let's say for the sake of argument that you are correct and it was a blunder of massive proportions. From where we are standing now it simply doesn't matter.

I'll say that again. It doesn't matter if the war was a mistake. It doesn't matter if Bush lied to get us there. All that counts is that we are there and every ally and potential ally we have is watching what we will do and every enemy and potential enemy is also watching what we will do.

Osama bin Laden has said that a large part of the reason that he believed that the 9/11 attack would accomplish his goal of getting the US out of the Middle East was his opinion, based upon America's actions in Viet Nam, Lebanon and Somalia that America was a paper tiger whose citizens had been rendered soft and cowardly by the nation's great wealth and the ease of our lives. He hoped that the public would be so shocked and frightened by the death toll of 9/11 that we would insist that the government withdraw from Saudi Arabia and reconsider our support for Israel. The Taliban government of Afghanistan allowed their nation to be used as al Qaeda's base of operations because they shared bin Laden's opinion of the United States.

The "insurgency" in Iraq, whether al Qaeda in Iraq, or the neo-Nazi Ba'ath Party bitter enders or Iranian backed Shiite militias or freelance jihadi "holy warriors" from Saudi Arabia all believe that the resolve that America has shown so far in invading Afghanistan and Iraq is a fluke caused by the people "screwing up" and electing an actual man to be their president.

They believe that if they can just wear down the American public with a constant trickle of deaths and injuries that our weakness and cowardice will come to the surface and we will force
"the last true man in America" to end his resistance to the global jihad and America will retreat within its borders.

It doesn't matter if you disagree with bin Laden's analysis and laugh at the idea of Bush being the "last true man in America"; that is how the militant Muslims see the situation. And they will act upon their perceptions not yours.

If we leave Iraq without defeating the insurgency and establishing a stable government which will be pro-Western, an opponent of terrorism and which offers its citizens some measure of political, economic and religious freedom it will be seen as a defeat of the US and it will be seen as proof that the US lacks the courage to stay in the fight to the finish. It will not matter what words we use to describe our failure. It will not matter in the least if we place the blame on the Iraqis and say that we gave them plenty of time to get their own house in order and they failed and we could not be expected to keep an open ended commitment that was costing us billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

All that will matter is that the jihadists will see it as the signal to begin the next phase of their operations. The next phase will involve bringing the war to the continental United States. America is very vulnerable to attack. A few men with hunting rifles could cause a cascading power failure which would black out everything from Chicago to New York City and south as far as Memphis, TN. A few small canisters of nerve gas in the New York subways would, without killing that many people, cause a panic which would paralyze the city for days and bring the financial markets to a standstill, costing billions.

Suicide bombers in shopping malls, restaurants, schools and stadiums would sow panic and despair and cost the nation's retailers billions. The nation's network of rail transport could be seriously disrupted by blowing up just a handful of railroad bridges. One effect of this would be to cause power plants which burn coal to shut down. Pipelines which carry petroleum and natural gas could be sabotaged causing prices to skyrocket.

A large part of the reason why this isn't happening right now is that Iraq and Afghanistan are occupying the attention of the militant Muslims. Kicking us off of "holy" Middle Eastern soil is job number one for them AND our continued presence there is proof that we are still too "hard" as a nation for attacks within our borders to have the desired effect.

What the global jihad awaits is proof that America's will to resist has been broken and that proof will come when we tuck our tails between our legs and slink back home from Iraq. It will not matter if politicians make speeches about how this is an Iraqi failure not an American failure. All that will matter is that the enemy will see a defeated America and know that the time is right to strike at the heart of the infidel.

The effect on other nations outside of the Middle East must also be taken into account. For example the governments in China and Taiwan are watching all of this. Do you not think that Taiwanese officials are looking at this and wondering how much faith to place in America's guarantees of their security. Do you not think that they are wondering if it might not be best to cut a deal with China. Do you really want to see Taiwan's considerable military and economic power joined to China's even more considerable military and economic power?

Do you want the next president, whoever it happens to be, to have to decide whether to get into a shooting war with China over the Spratley Islands? The Chinese are watching us in Iraq. If we show them that we don't have the resolve to defend our interests in Iraq (even if you don't think we have any legitimate interests in Iraq try to wrap your mind around the idea that everybody else in the world outside of Old Europe and the American Democrat Party does recognize America's interests in Iraq) might they not be moved to exert what they claim to view as their legitimate claim to the Islands? Especially if they have already secured Taiwan?

What about nuclear armed Pakistan? It already has a population in sympathy with the Islamists. How much more pressure will be brought on the government to leave its political position on the edge of the Western World and align itself fully with the terror states if America stops being a part of the Middle East equation?

In the eyes of politicians like Pelosi, Murtha and Kennedy a defeat for the US in Iraq equals a defeat for Bush and the Republicans and therefore a victory for them. Their minds are too small to grasp the fact that the consequences of an American retreat in the face of a dynamic, committed and expansionist enemy, who has what they believe to be the promise of God that they will conquer and transform the entire world, would only result in an escalation of the war, not an end to it.

I restate my original thesis. Even if you believe that the war in Iraq was the most cosmic blunder in the history of the universe we are there now and we have to deal with the situation as it is, not as we wish it might have been. To stay and devote however many lives, however much money and however much time it takes to win an unambiguous victory will, in the end, save countless lives, money and time. And it will be the first step in transforming the Islamic religion and the Arab culture which Islam has created into something fit to exist in 21st century civilization.

Finally, if you are one of those who believes that we CANNOT win stop and think about that. Are you really going to say that a nation with the manpower, wealth and technology of the United States CANNOT defeat around 20 - 30 thousand terrorists? If they are so invincible then why are they already abandoning Baghdad in the face of a promised increase in US troop strength?