June 27, 2006

What It Might Take to Win

Almost anyone can go on about Pat Buchanan. He's hard to love.

He is also, however, a smart guy and unlike many of the left-wing critics of the Administration, cares about this country. A war critic, he's not a defeatist.

In this piece, Buchanan wonders whether the leaked troop reduction plan is a cover for defeat, and recognizes that whether or not starting the war was wise, a defeat, disguised or otherwise, would have doleful consequences for the country:
It needs to be stated coldly. The Casey plan, for a drawdown of over half of all U.S. combat brigades in Iraq in 18 months, risks an insurgent triumph, chaos and civil war, ethnic cleansing and a Baghdad that is turned into a hellish no man's land.

A decision not to ramp up U.S. military forces in Afghanistan risks defeat there, as well. For no NATO force we send can match U.S. forces in combat effectiveness, and the Taliban resistance has grown to present levels -- the most impressive in five years -- in the teeth of attacks by U.S. forces now giving way to Europeans.

A U.S. defeat in either country would result in a bloodbath for those who sided with the Americans. It happened in Vietnam and Cambodia. If we lose these wars, it will happen in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Perhaps the above is too pessimistic. But if Americans, with the finest fighting forces on earth, have not been able to defeat the Iraqi insurgency, what makes us believe Iraqis trained by Americans will succeed where we failed? And if the Taliban, after five years of U.S. air strikes and Special Forces search-and-destroy missions, are stronger than ever, who thinks that NATO units that have never seen combat can take them down? President Bush needs to face the truth, and tell us the truth.

We may be at a crossroads in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where he has three choices: Ratchet up the U.S. troop investment to stave off defeat. Endure in what appears to be another "no-win war." Cut America's losses and get out, risking strategic disaster.

The Democratic Party, having voted to begin redeployment of U.S. forces out of Iraq, has taken its stand: end U.S. involvement, now or soon. If Bush, too, has decided to depart, America had best prepare for the strategic consequences abroad and the political consequences at home of another lost war for the United States.
Buchanan's assessment may be a tad grim--much of Iraq is under control, and the Taliban are not at the gates of Kabul--but he's right that in spite of losses, each one of which is painful, we've tried to fight both wars on the cheap while at home folks hit the malls in their SUVs and millions excitedly watch "American Idol," while the élites hit Starbucks in their Priuses.

Depending on whom one believes, our deployments and sacrifices may not be enough for victory, and defeat would have a terrible price.

Most war opponents won't grapple with the disastrous consequences of a defeat (one Pat doesn't mention--the Iraqi equivalent of the Vietnamese "boat people). They hate Bush more than they worry about the country. Pat's no Bush-lover, but he does worry about this country. His fears aren't baseless.

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