It seems more and more people are moving towards that sentiment. Of this, I have feared for quite some time. Over the weekend, two articles have caught my interest, one arguing that the war is lost, and the other arguing the flip side of that. The first is by William F. Buckley Jr., one of my favorites. He suggests:
Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.
The failure in Iraq does not force us to generalize that violence and antidemocratic movements always prevail. It does call on us to adjust to the question, What do we do when we see that the postulates do not prevail — in the absence of interventionist measures (we used these against Hirohito and Hitler) which we simply are not prepared to take? It is healthier for the disillusioned American to concede that in one theater in the Mideast, the postulates didn't work. The alternative would be to abandon the postulates. To do that would be to register a kind of philosophical despair. The killer insurgents are not entitled to blow up the shrine of American idealism.
As much as I appreciate the man's intellect and writing skills, I could not disagree more here. I think he is simply wrong. Where he sees failure, I see setback. And this is that issue I have been afraid of. When things appear to be out of control or on the losing end, I feared that many would drop their support, if anything due to exhaustion and irritation. From what I get in the above and other folks, the argument sounds like - "Fine, you didn't want our help? Then you don't get it. I'll be damned if I let our boys die over here for this."
Isolationism has a long history among the Republican party, and many of the old school conservatives have been against this war since the beginning. Buckley is only arguing that avenue of thought. Further, from my understanding and memory, Buckley has always been a little skeptical of the endeavor. But once he comes out against it, as Fukuyama did recently, others will follow.
On the other side of things, here is Bill Kristol,
From Copenhagen to Samara, the radical Islamists are on the offensive. From Tehran to Damascus, the dictators are trying to regain the upper hand in the Middle East. From Moscow to Beijing, the enemies of liberal democracy are working to weaken the United States. Across the world, the forces of terror and tyranny are fighting back. Are we up to the challenge?
It's not clear that we are. Many liberals, here and in Europe, long ago lost the nerve to wage war--or even to defend themselves--against illiberalism. Parts of the conservative movement now seem to be losing their nerve as well. In response to an apparent clash of civilizations, they would retrench, hunker down, and let large parts of the world go to hell in a hand basket, hoping that the hand basket won't blow up in our faces.
And he concludes,
Moral seriousness in this case means political seriousness. Insist on going ahead with the ports deal so that Arab governments who have stood with us in the war on terror are not told to get lost when one of their companies acquires port management contracts in the United States. Make a real effort to destabilize Ahmadinejad in Iran. Do what it takes to defeat Zarqawi and secure Iraq. Stand with Denmark, and moderate Muslims, against the radical mob. This is no time for dishonorable retreat. It is time for resolve--and competence. After all, it would be most unfortunate if the administration summoned its nerve and charged ahead--only to meet the fate of Tennyson's Light Brigade!
I have to say, this is where I fall as well. I have never assumed this particluar war in Iraq, or more importantly the world wide struggle against terrorism would be a quick process, and certainly not easy. When we were hit on 9/11, I assumed we would be entering another period very much akin to the Cold War. I am of the opinion that we are in the midst of World War IV. Reasonable minds can disagree on that score, but not that the actual process will take quite a long while. One cannot disrupt, uproot and destroy cells of terrorism over night. As tough as it may sound to us at home, and more importantly to the Iraqi on the street, we should have been prepared (and should be prepared now) to be in Iraq for at least ten years. Ten years to do the job in front of them right, and ten years to be on hand to deal with those neighbors unwilling to put down their weapons and support for insurgency.
I make no suggestion that the steps taken along the way have been perfect, or even the correct moves. But I do suggest that what the United States has attempted is the right thing to do, it is worth doing and it will need to be done through not just the current administration, but perhaps several in the future. I would not be surprised to still be in this struggle in 2050. War is not the only answer, but it is one of the ways we can respond to this threat. And it may need to be in play for as long as we have fanatics that wish us dead.
Stephen Green from Vodkapundit responds to Buckley,
I'd say it's strange that Buckley is willing to call Iraq a failure after such a short time, except that he was opposed to the invasion in the first place. What it strange is that Buckley seems so ignorant on how long it takes to create an army.
As does Mark at Decision '08,
Things are very frustrating for the Iraqi people, and for ourselves, at the moment…but it’s very premature to say that the fight is lost. I think the latest stories are rather encouraging, and I hope that the enforced quiet of the curfew will continue when it is inevitably lifted. I’m not seeing Iraq through rose-colored glasses, I can assure you. My optimism has been deflated substantially in the last several months. We need patience, however…and we need to work overtime to bring responsible Sunni and Shia leaders together to forge a way through this crisis…let’s see what next week brings in terms of movement to repair the damage, among the Iraqis themselves, before falling prey to grand pronouncements of victory or defeat…
These are just two of many that find Buckley's pessimism premature. There has been plenty of discussion for some time now about the right or wrong of the war, the folly of certain expectations and subsequent dumbing down of them, and the desire for the endgame. This last part I find terribly premature other than as an exercise in "what ifs." But there is no lack of voice on the issue and I can only hope that those voices calling for responsibility stay loud enough to counteract those that seem to be calling for isolationism again. Because to leave Iraq now (civil war or no) would be terribly irresponsible. And it helps to recall what we are doing there in the first place. neo-neocon speaks plainly on this point,
The evidence or lack thereof of actual WMDs aside, there was (and still is) strong and incontrovertible evidence that Saddam was planning to reconstitute his WMD program as soon as possible. And, combined with the postwar evidence of French and Russian collaboration with Saddam to lift sanctions, that "as soon as possible" would have come sooner rather than later. Nothing would have stopped it short of war, and the UN was complicit in the whole thing. Saddams's defiance of the UN and weapons inspectors set a terrible precedent that had to be stopped, and the UN was completely uninterested in doing so.
This is not just neocon rhetoric. It is the conclusion of the Duelfer report (not a neocon document). The new Saddam tapes only solidify the idea, and the Oil for Food scandal is part of the picture. The humanitarian plusses in deposing Saddam are also clear; and, although these benefits were most assuredly not the main reason the war was waged, they are a strong side benefit.
And what of the negatives, which are very real and quite serious? The fact that this endeavor was not perfectly executed--well, that was simply inevitable, I'm afraid. I take issue with some of the decisions that were made, but that does not mean I think the whole thing should not have been attempted.
How is it that I can still say this? Well, for one thing, we have no idea whether civil war will actually occur or not; the jury is still out on that. But, for the sake of argument, let's say it does. What then?
My answer is that it was always a possibility, a risk inherent in the toppling of Saddam. If you remove one threat it does not mean another less-than-desirable outcome will not take its place, not in the real world vs. the world of wishful thinking. And those who accuse the neocons of the latter are guilty of it themselves, I'm afraid, if they ignore the dangers inherent in all the possible choices we faced, including that of inaction.
Because the truth is that the forces leading to unrest in the Middle East are not necessarily stoppable, but the creation of a functioning democracy, if successful, would constitute a counterforce of some magnitude.
If the democracy/human rights experiment in Iraq falls into civil war and chaos, does that mean that doing nothing would have been better? Allowing Saddam to laugh at the sanctions and the UN inspections, and later to rearm himself with WMDs? Would this have been a good outcome? I don't think so; just a different bad one.
She also has this to say on a possible civil war,
In fact, civil war in Iraq is not an artifact of American intervention via the invasion of Iraq. It is a manifestation of forces that have been brewing for centuries and especially since the division of the Ottomon Empire after WWI. Saddam controlled and manipulated these forces in his own way, which was to orchestrate his own Sunni-dominated war against the Shi'ites, a type of civil war waged by dictator. Taking Saddam away does not create the problem; it simply changes it in a way that at least gives the Iraqi people a chance of ending up with a better result.
On that subject, go back to Vodkapundit and read his lengthy post on the same thing. It reads rather like this post I made last year. And if you read further back on this site, you will find I have said for some time that a civil war might, in fact, break out. And if it does, it may be exactly what the region and religion of Islam need. Should we push such a thing? Certainly not. But were it to occur, we need to be prepared to deal with it. What good does it do to assign blame before it even happens? What good does it do to push Iraq this far only to pull out right before it gets really ugly?
I could go on and repeat myself some more (since much of this has been stated by me elsewhere on this blog) but I won't. Read those links above and ponder once more what we have done and why. If you are of the opinion that America is evil and nothing it does is worth anything, then it won't matter what I or anyone says. But if you think that the actions taken in the war have been done to protect America, then consider the reason, purpose or result of stopping with a job only half finished. Consider the difficulties in the project and the realistic expectations that derive from that. And consider what kind of time investment, and yes - life investment, that might entail. It was always going to be a difficult road to navigate.
And we did not ask for it. I have never believed in nation building just for the sake of it. Terrorism came calling one too many times, and on our shores. What is the appropriate response? Leaving it to fester just so we would no be in the firing line as we had done for decades? Or proactive action to disrupt and finally destroy those entities willing to destroy us? I'll take the later, with all the difficulties that come with it. But patience wears thin with many Americans. And my biggest fear - that time will cause people to tire of the hardships - seems to be slowly coming upon us. If that takes hold, then yes - we have lost. That is all.