It's Been a Long Time Coming
Max Boot shares an email he received from a Lieutenant Colonel in Iraq.
Almost nobody trusts the politicians, but they might if they see the coalition forces standing side by side with Iraqi Security Forces for long enough. As the public begins to develop confidence in the Iraqi formations, that trust could rub off into government legitimacy. Our only other option would be to replace the government, which nobody in the U.S. seems to have the political stomach for at this juncture.
Here's a theme that has been echoed repeatedly. The idea that structures in Iraq are actually developing from the bottom up, where the Iraqis in the field may actually be doing better than the politicians in the Green Zone. The email continues:
Given that reality, we need to stand by the Iraqis. How long, you ask? I am on my second tour following a year in Tikrit from 2004-2005. A realistic goal is to have stabilized this region by the time my eleven-year-old son is old enough to serve in the military. Not that he is preordained to serve, but my hope is he will not have to deal with the complexity and tragedies that I have witnessed in Baghdad over the last eight months. My only other goal is to be able to look myself in the mirror every day, knowing that I stuck to my principles and did as much as possible to win in this very dangerous environment.
If our government decides to prematurely pull out, I would fail to reach both goals, and my son and his generation may find themselves embroiled in something far worse than what we experience now—all because my generation couldn’t get the job done.
I've heard this argument repeated in many places. It usually takes this form: whatever mistakes we've made nothing can compare with the mistake of quitting. Of course, it is always hard to compare actual deaths incurred in Iraq today against the belief -- however well founded -- that enduring them now will lead to benefits later. Human nature is such that the present difficulties always seem more immediate than the future. Nevertheless, when warnings against pulling out are expressed by people actually in the field who have the greatest possible incentive to avoid danger, then it is only reasonable to take these warnings seriously.
Austin Bay has advanced the opinion that the West hasn't found the way to mobilize all the sources of national power against the problem of terrorism. Certainly the diplomatic and aid agencies are in no way full "expeditionary". And the information warfare organs of the West, if the media and academia can be so termed, haven't even made up their minds about whether there's a war on at all, and if so, whose side they are on. All these problems need to be resolved. It will take a long time.