Richard Fernandez of the brilliant Belmont Club has an excellent rejoinder to Andrew Sullivan’s incoherent strategy for Iraq which would essentially amount to the US admitting some kind of defeat and going home. Even Sullivan admits that his course of action would lead to “genocide and ethnic cleansing on a hideously cruel scale” and potentially a devastating regional war. Sullivan’s constant blind assumptions of bad faith are laced throughout his piece, and Fernandez does an excellent job of explaining exactly why his policy is so foolish:
In short, Sullivan’s prescription of a withdrawal as the route to a hidden victory is a wish without the obvious prospect of fulfillment. It would be nice if it happened, but in principle it would be the equivalent of what critics of the Administration have accused it of: toppling Saddam and hoping “something wonderful” would happen. Withdrawing from the card table with a losing hand in anticipation of returning to sweep the stakes later in the evening must depend on more than the hope that it will happen. The dilemma of Iraq was expressed in a conversation I recently had with a US officer. He was willing to grant — even argue forcefully — that the US had made many mistakes in Iraq but still maintained the consequences were nothing in comparison to a precipitous withdrawal. “We have a choice of evils,” was the way he put it.
Indeed, that’s exactly it. The situation in Iraq is not irretrievable, and the defeatist rhetoric coming the left is an example of the virulent anti-Americanism that it has always harbored. We can, and we will win. And as Fernandez points out, either we fight now or we fight later. We can’t afford to let the Middle East destroy itself without suffering a worldwide Great Depression at the very least. The isolationists who wish us to retreat behind the walls of Fortress America and the anti-American left who savors each American defeat will both lead us into a situation that is beyond our imagination.
We can’t cut and run and expect the events in the Middle East that would be the inevitable consequences of our actions not to catch up with us. The current situation would be a walk in the park compared to what would follow were we to retreat. The advocates of surrender haven’t thought the results through – most of them (like Sullivan) are so fixated on their single-minded monomania of attacking George W. Bush that it doesn’t matter what happens so long as Bush wins.
What the left doesn’t have the intellectual fortitude to understand is that if we lose in Iraq, we all lose, not just the President. The price of that defeat will cost us dearly in blood and treasure, as the Middle East burns. If we can’t defend our values and our interests now, what would make our enemies think that we can’t be pushed around even harder the next time?
Fernandez is right — America has no hope of staying out of the civil war between Sunni and Shi’a. If we withdraw from Iraq, we risk making things infinitely worse. The costs of staying are high. The costs of defeat are nightmarish in comparison.