If war was easy, America would engage its enemies on a steadier basis. In fact, our adversaries would be confronted more often out of principal than out of any actual or perceived threat. However, as we are experiencing now, war isn’t a cakewalk. War, of course, “is Hell.” This bleak reality should not deteriorate our will and fortitude. It is the faith in our service members and leaders that will guide us through these difficult times.
Every week, the tally of American deaths grows and the nation yearns for an end to it all – or at least a dim light at the end of this battle-worn tunnel. The public’s call for the former is being answered by Democrats, pushing for either a phased or an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The latter has yet to grace the eyes and ears of the masses sufficiently to maintain support in this everlasting endeavor. But by answering the public’s shouts for our men and women to come home, Democrats and cut-and-runners are doing a terrible disservice to the military, nation and public they wish to appease.
Withdrawal exhibits a lack of faith in both the mission our military is fighting for and its ability to accomplish the task at hand. In the short term, our troops learn through newspapers, friends and television that their sacrifice is not worth the effort – that their long, arduous days kicking in doors, loading aircraft or training Iraqis will in the end be all for nothing. This attempt to bail out of the run before the finish line demoralizes our service members and places their lives in even greater risk by emboldening the enemies’ resolve, strengthening their propaganda and support throughout the region. In the long run, a withdrawal – phased or complete – would create another generation of disgruntled veterans on a sub-level of Vietnam veterans.
This is not theory, but based on history. When the warriors of any conflict return from battle, their parades should not be a celebration of only homecoming, but of homecoming and triumphant accomplishment. Pulling our heroes out of the war zone before they have finished their mission tragically denies their right to the latter.
For our nation, a withdrawal would allow our enemies to celebrate, as was the case last summer when the Israelis ended their war with Hezbollah. If the troops were to come home early, America would be seen as weak in the eyes of Osama bin Laden, Moqtada al Sadr and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Their words and writings prove this assertion. Our own history, again, serves as an example for us to heed. After the death of 19 of our finest warriors in the Battle of Mogadishu, America’s response was similar to the pleas heard around the nation – a pull out of troops. Bin Laden sees that battle as a defeat for America, and he is correct. Today, Somalia is overrun with al-Qaeda and Muslim militias, which use the country as a sanctuary and training ground for future terrorists.
Ask any American whether we won or lost the Vietnam War and you will receive an unfortunate consensus: we lost. A withdrawal of troops from any region before all jobs have been completed will strengthen our enemy and make us appear weak.
For the public, the consequences of cut-and-running are more disastrous than a weakened global image or a generation of disgruntled veterans. Because the Iraqi Army and Police are not yet ready to stand up, we cannot step down. Although many feel that host-nation forces would be obliged to take the place of American troops upon our mass exodus, their assumption is merely that – and their vision is more optimistic than even the most war-supporting neo-conservative. We have seen the Iraqis fail to secure their towns in Baghdad, ar Ramadi, al Fallujah and sections of the Al Anbar Province following the Coalition Forces’ mobilization to other hostile areas of Iraq. The sober realization that the Iraqis will not fight for their nation on a hasty timeline is not a reason to give up on them. Withdrawing combat troops from Iraq would send the already chaotic country into a vicious downward spiral. One hundred deaths per day would no longer be the norm, but a good day in the Middle-Eastern country. Those who don’t believe Sunnis, Shiites and al-Qaeda members are engaged in a civil war now need only wait. Doubters would surely be convinced once death squads – with assistance from the Iraqi Police and Army, along with the immigrated Hezbollah and Iranian-sponsored terrorists, begin slaughtering each other and innocent Iraqis by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, daily.
As the level of violence increases as a result of decreased security, the already-divided government will quickly disintegrate due to escalated attacks, threats and lack of reliable security. Following countless deaths and years of war, one faction will stand to rule Iraq – the most violent and powerful. My assumption is that the ruling party would be comparable to Hezbollah in Gaza and Palestine – security and public services would be provided, yet the basic liberties of women and those who disagree with the ruling party would be few, if any. Like Hamas and Hezbollah, training camps and state-sponsored terrorism would be permitted and possibly encouraged. Iraq would be more of a threat to our people than previously understood. The Withdrawal of Coalition Forces before Iraqis have faith and confidence in their own military and police would pull the main string on this delicate sweater, unraveling to become a very real threat to the American people, our allies and Iraq’s neighbors.
Of the many directions we can go in Iraq, reverse is the most detrimental to Americans and Iraqis. Forward is the only American option – protecting our people and interests while presenting an image of strength and resolve to the entire world. What feels good at the present is hardly ever good on the lengthy timeline of our nation. If America’s heart and feelings guide us in Iraq, the result will be defeat. Though, if will and strength are the cornerstones of our direction, victory will be the only end in our sights – however long our battle against the enemy may be.
SSG David R.Vos JCC-I/A Administrative NCO junior political science