Business As Usual
Mark Steyn, in an op-ed piece written immediately after the elections referred caustically to a Boston Globe editorial exhorting America to "accept defeat" in Iraq just as it did in Vietnam. We are going to leave the field to enemy anyway, so the argument goes, so why not do it now?
The goal of "peace with honor" assumes that the nation's honor has not already been squandered. During Vietnam, for all the widespread opposition to the war, the American public was never ready to face the full truth of what had been done in its name, and so the martial band played on. And on. ... The only way out of the disaster was to accept defeat, and that America was loath to do. ... This time, can we accept defeat?
What Mark Steyn understood was that "defeat in Iraq" was yet another dishonest euphemism -- along with "responsible redeployment" -- for a program to reinstate the post-Vietnam era without the miracle of a Ronald Reagan. The Left's real nostalgia isn't for Bill Clinton's Year 2000 but for Jimmy Carter's 1980. That was the Road of History from which America unaccountably strayed. But it is not too late. As Steyn wrote:
What does it mean when the world's hyperpower, responsible for 40 percent of the planet's military spending, decides that it cannot withstand a guerrilla war with historically low casualties against a ragbag of local insurgents and imported terrorists? You can call it "redeployment" or "exit strategy" or "peace with honor" but, by the time it's announced on al-Jazeera, you can pretty much bet that whatever official euphemism was agreed on back in Washington will have been lost in translation. ...
For the rest of the world, the Iraq war isn't about Iraq; it's about America, and American will. I'm told that deep in the bowels of the Pentagon there are strategists wargaming for the big showdown with China circa 2030/2040. Well, it's steady work, I guess. But, as things stand, by the time China's powerful enough to challenge the United States it won't need to. ...
As it is, we're in a very dark place right now. It has been a long time since America unambiguously won a war, and to choose to lose Iraq would be an act of such parochial self-indulgence that the American moment would not endure, and would not deserve to. Europe is becoming semi-Muslim, Third World basket-case states are going nuclear, and, for all that 40 percent of planetary military spending, America can't muster the will to take on pipsqueak enemies. We think we can just call off the game early, and go back home and watch TV.
It is this sense of assured security and the unshakeable belief in the inalienable right to pursue "business as usual" that is so evident in Nancy Pelosi's decision to nominate Alcee Hastings, a former Federal Judge impeached for soliciting bribes in Florida, to head the House Intelligence Committee. This signals a basic contempt for national security threats by certain sections of the Democratic Party. The arrow of causality runs both ways. Not simply is America endangered by its refusal to win wars overseas, its ability to win wars overseas is endangered by its refusal to accept any possibility of danger to America. The Boston Globe editorial writer got it right when he said the band played on and on. What he got wrong was the identity of the band.
In the curious mythological world of the Left, American defeats occur without a corresponding victor. It is acceptable for America to "lose" in Vietnam -- and probably in Iraq too -- but politic never to mention who wins. It was Communism the case of Vietnam. In Iraq is almost certainly Iran. Jim Dunnigan at the Strategy Page correctly understands that not only has the Sunni insurgency not triumphed, it has put itself along with America in the loser's column by its catastrophic attempt to hang on to power.
Despite a lot of bravado on the Internet, the Sunni Arabs are losing. Not just in body count, but in terms of sharply decreasing Sunni Arab population. The Shia Arab death squads are killing more Sunni Arabs than the terrorist bombs are killing Shia Arabs. ... Anbar is being abandoned, as Sunni Arabs flee the country from both Anbar and Baghdad. While some Sunni Arab towns and neighborhoods can organize private guard forces, even these are helpless against police or soldiers moonlighting as Shia death squads. ... The death squads are very popular among the Shia Arabs, and the Shia Arab politicians who dominate the government know it. While the Sunni Arab leadership has gone through the motions of trying to suppress the terrorists, it has not worked. The Shia Arabs see this ineffectiveness as tacit support for the continued terror attacks on Shia Arabs, and have increasingly turned on Sunni Arab leaders. The army and police now go after the well guarded Sunni Arab leaders, and arrest them on "suspicion of supporting terrorism." ...
The perception among some quarters in Sunni countries, according to Dunnigan is that "Saddam's Sunni Arab supporters are being driven out of Iraq. And now the Americans, tired of the casualties, are going to pull out of Iraq, leaving it a new province of Iran." Dunnigan goes on to say that Iraqi Shi'ites are by and large hostile to becoming a province of Iran. But recent events may reinforce that theory. Stanley Kurtz at the NRO denounces attempts to offer a Grand Bargain to Iraq. Grand Bargain as in Bargain Sale. And it won't matter what the Iraqi Shi'ites think then.
Increasingly, it looks as though the United States may attempt to negotiate a “grand bargain” with Iran. To settle our fundamental differences, Iran would surrender its nuclear-weapons program, stop supporting terrorism, and stop undermining America’s position in Iraq. In return, the United States would offer Iran security guarantees, and would pour in aid and investments. This seems to be the solution favored by the “realists” now running the Baker commission, and soon to be running the Defense Department.
But "aid and investments" would almost certainly be a fig-leaf to cover the real payment. As Kurtz put it, "I don’t put much faith in this approach. The mullahs are less interested in a settlement than in consolidating their leadership of the Muslim world." Therefore they would want nothing less than dominion over Shi'ite Iraq in much the same way as they obtained it over Southern Lebanon. Come to think of it, in the new world of open appeasement and pay-off, Pelosi's choice of Alcee Hastings may be inspired. Steyn understood what the Boston Globe elided. That voluntary defeat in Iraq is not simply a local loss over honor; it is a voluntary surrender to a specific strategic regional threat. In particular to Iran. And the curious thing is that the instrument of America's own political defeat was its military success against the Sunni insurgency, a development which allowed the long suppressed Shi'a to gain ascendance and combined with the intransigence of both parties to keep fighting, provided leverage for political jujitsu which the Left was only too happy to employ. Both Sunni and Shi'a armed bands might have been beaten into submission by a strong willed America. But the American electorate chose what it thought was on offer. And that, though it sugarcoated with all the claptrap about "putting adults in charge", now without its coating works out to putting Iran in charge.