First Posted: 1/15/2009
The war in Iraq has been a tough-enough slog, but now - even more so than ever before - politics threaten to undermine a 4-year-old effort that has cost this country dearly in deaths, mangled limbs and treasury.
If Democrats - and a handful of Republicans - get their way, then legislation could emerge today from the Senate that ties $122 billion in funding for the troops to an arbitrary deadline to exit sometime in 2008, probably March 31. The only thing that will guarantee is defeat - and any life lost or dollar spent between now and Defeat Day would have been in vain. A much more noble venture would be a vote for an immediate withdrawal.
Partisans on Capitol Hill - instead of taking a deep breath and seeing if President Bush's surge will work, and early returns are favorable - are sending the exact wrong message to al-Qaida in Iraq and insurgents there fueling sectarian violence: America no longer has the stomach to fight a war, and we are looking for the closest exit door.
In doing so, some are abandoning an effort that they initially supported, which raises moral questions that can be kicked aside somewhat because it would have been impossible to forecast that Iraqis would be so reticent about fighting for their own freedom. Still, we got the Iraqis into this mess, and we are obligated to do all that we can to get them out of it.
Then there is the matter of how quitting this war before its successful conclusion will be viewed by the world. Our allies will be less convinced of our dependability, and our enemies will be more convinced of our vulnerability.
President Bush warns that if we turn tail, that al-Qaida will follow us home. Critics dismiss the assertion as just another scare tactic. But what cannot be disputed is that as of now, we are fighting al-Qaida in Iraq, a strategy that history might judge to have been brilliant. Where is there a better theater?
Bush promises to veto any funding legislation that comes with a deadline attached, which makes this proposed legislation even more futile, and reveals its supporters are interested only in show, not substance.
If defeat is the goal, then retreat now. No war can be successfully waged while on the clock.