November 20, 2006

Ugly and Enduring: The Price of Withdrawal

The hounds are baying behind our Iraq adventure.

First, a confession. This blogger, with some hesitancy, supported the war, along with Tom Friedman, Charles Krauthammer, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. Thus I cannot claim prescience about the present state of affairs. I was gloomier about Afghanistan, conscious as I was of British and Soviet routs in that distant, rocky land.

Pat Buchanan was one of those who opposed the project from the start, and not merely because he imagined it to be a fantasy of Pentagon Likudniks. Buchanan knows more history than most of our soi-disant pundits, and is almost always interesting even if he has retreated to skirmish on the political fringe.

It's of interest, then, to note that even as lefties and paleos clamor for prompt withdrawal, Buchanan pauses and considers the possible price, now that we've gotten into the Mesopotamian mud:

While our leaders never thought through the probable result of invading an Arab nation that had not attacked us, we had best think through the probable results of a pullout in 2007.

We are being told that by giving the Iraqis a deadline, after which we start to withdraw, we will stiffen their spines to take up greater responsibility for their own country. But there is as great or greater a likelihood that a U.S. pullout will break their morale and spirit, that the Iraqi government and army, seeing Americans heading for the exit ramp, will collapse before an energized enemy, and Shias, Sunnis and Kurds will scramble for security and survival among their own.

Arabs are not ignorant of history. They know that when we pulled out of South Vietnam, a Democratic Congress cut off aid to the Saigon regime, and every Cambodian and Vietnamese who had cast his lot with us wound up dead, in a “re-education camp” or among the boat people in the South China Sea whose wives and children were routinely assaulted by Thai pirates.

In that first year of “peace” in Southeast Asia, 20 times as many Cambodians perished as all the Americans who died in 10 years of war.

In Iraq, a collapse of the government and army in the face of an American pullout, followed by a civil-sectarian war, the break-up of the country and a strategic debacle for the United States—emboldening our enemies and imperiling our remaining friends in the Arab world—is a real possibility.

And this:
Democrats are probably reading the country right. Americans will not send added troops to Iraq, as McCain urges. They want out of this war and are willing to take the consequences.

But those consequences are going to be ugly and enduring. That is what happens to nations that commit historic blunders.
Unlike quite a few of the left-wing opponents of the war, who are genuine oikophobes and in their heart of hearts desire this country's defeat, Buchanan is what used to be called an "isolationist," but he is a patriot. He is not so besotted with the evils of Bush that he wishes to see his country defeated, even if the adventure was, in his view, misguided from the stat.

So what are the likely consequences of a withdrawal, dolled-up with escalation and diplomacy, or not?
  • A slaughter or exodus of those who allied themselves with us.

  • Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in this country.

  • Still greater reluctance of anyone with half a brain to rely on our promises.

  • One, two many Hugo Chavezes.

  • A multi-faction civil war in Iraq, with ethnic cleansing and slaughter as the country fragments.

  • Intervention, covert or overt, by neighboring states, notably Turkey, which fears a free Kurdistan, and Iran, to help (and to control) the Iraqi Shi'i.

  • Strengthening of the jihadis, who may gain some bases in Sunni Iraq and will in any case claim victory.

  • Internal division, as the blame game begins between the GOP, whose President started the war, and the Dems, who began to oppose it, and the GOP will seek to blame for undermining it.

  • Demoralization of our military.
There are other, more remote possibilities, like a Shi'a revolution all around the Gulf, a regional war between Shi'i and Sunni, some kind of involvement of the "Zionist entity."

What seems certain is, the consequences of withdrawal will not be pretty. I would find those who advocate it more persuasive, if, like Pat Buchanan, they owned up to the risks and likely consequences of the course they advocate, rather than simply piling on a beleaguered Administration, which, like it or not, is the only one we've got.

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