I’ve been thinking about some of the criticism that my plan to win the war in Iraq has received. Most of it—the vast majority—has been very constructive, and I highly appreciate it.
I think the fundamental disagreement lies in thinking whether or not this war can be won, by any means. Many of you think it cannot; and if that’s the case, then, of course, it won’t be won. If a country lacks the will to pursue a certain course of action, then eventually, it will find a reason to cease pursuing it.
So, can we win in Iraq?
It’s that simple. Neither the right, nor the left, possess the willpower necessary to pursue an action that has increasingly become jacked up beyond all recognition.
People on the right still think that the course plotted by folks like Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, and ultimately, Bush is the correct approach. And their refusal to admit error prevents them from applying the proper corrective measures, in order for us to make it possible to win in Iraq.
People on the left, for the most part, thought that going into Iraq was wrong, and so, given the most reasonable opportunity, will likely find a way to fob all responsibility for this mess off onto the United Nations.
So what do I think?
Well, as opposed to a year ago, I think that going into Iraq was the wrong thing to do. I think that it served to distract us from our war against al-Qaeda, and moreover, we played into Osama bin Laden’s hands, because he was saying that we would invade and conquer an Arab country, and that’s what we did.
For all of the work that we’ve done in improving the life of ordinary Iraqis, there’s so much more that we could have done, and still can do. I hold no hope that we will do these things, because what we do in Iraq has always been dictated by the political necessities back home, and will continue to be, no matter if Bush or Kerry wins.
UPDATE: Okay, I’m back.
So why do I continue to support our efforts there, if I don’t think that the war can be won?
Because I still think that we have an obligation—in my opinion, a moral obligation—to make things right. We stood by, and helped make the destruction of Iraqi society a possibility. Having done that, I think we need to try to set things straight.
We’re not doing that right now, especially over the last month, but rather than cast stones from the sidelines, I feel that I have a duty to do my part and try my hardest to make life better for Iraqis, in whatever limited fashion I can.
I suppose that I should make it clear that I’m not talking about establishing a liberal democracy; I’m merely referring to stabilizing Iraq to the point where we can turn over to a functioning governing body. That’s probably not going to happen by July 1—the stabilizing part. As I’ve said before, pro-warbloggers may say that they want a liberal democracy, but what they want is an Iraq that hews to a pro-American line.
Many of you have also criticized my call for a draft, basically under the principle that we shouldn’t compel anyone to serve the nation, because the people who will likely do the serving are not the children of the powerful.
My first choice isn’t a draft; it would be wonderful if we were able to meet both our retention and our enlistment goals. But we aren’t; and right now, the fact remains that the only people in America being asked to sacrifice anything are the men and women of the Armed Forces, and their families, myself among them.
Look, it’s great to say you support the troops, and it’s awesome to wave the flag, and talk about what a wonderful job they’re doing, and how we need to take care of them. But all I’m hearing, from both the right and my friends on the left, is talk—especially on the right. From the left, all I hear is “Bring them home now!”
Fine—and does that apply to the troops in Korea, or Germany, or the Balkans, or the myriad other places across the globe where our military is flung across? Apart from Jim Henley and Diana Moon, I’m not hearing many calls to bring all the folks home. Should they? Do we want to take such a step?
But taking care of the troops goes beyond bringing them home, and here’s where the right has failed. This Administration, of whom so many on the right are so fond, has systematically attacked all manner of veteran’s benefits. Funding for new VA health centers? Cut. Veterans’ stipends? Cut. Veterans’ eligibility for overtime? Gone.
And let’s not forget the active-duty force. Financial set-asides for school districts where military families live? Cut. Hazardous-duty pay? Okay, it was going to be cut, but people raised such a stink over that one, that it didn’t take place. Lack of equipment for troops going into a war? Check—I didn’t receive my Interceptor body armor system (IBAS) until September, and we had to retrofit our Humvees with sheet metal—and that’s for a Regular Army infantry battalion. From everything I’ve heard and seen, our cousins in the Guard & Reserve who’ve been activated fare much worse.
Now, you may be surprised to read all of this. Or you may not—much of this information has been out there for some time now. But my point is, how long do you think this disgrace would have lasted, and continue to last (for it does), if it had been your kid, or your husband, or wife, or brother, or sister? Too many people—and not just the powers-that-be—can say, well, it’s not anyone I know or love, and so, because it’s not, can blithely dismiss it, and carry on with their lives.
I happen to think that one of the reasons that more Americans aren’t aware of what’s going over in Iraq, and more to the point, don’t care, is because they don’t have a stake in the process. If you’re reading this, you care enough to find out, and I urge you to do even more, if you haven’t already. Read more. Do more—write your congressmen, find other people who care, and organize. Don’t do it because it’s the hip thing to do—do it because you could be walking in those steps, carrying that rifle.
But for those Americans who can’t be bothered to participate in the civil life of our country, the threat of being drafted to fight in a war that you oppose can be a powerful incentive to care, and make your feelings known. That’s why I proposed a draft.