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    09 January 2006

    Cut N Run, Stay the Course...OR

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    While both sides of the congressional aisle debate how fast we’re going to “cut n run” from Iraq, I can’t help but wonder why discussion on how to change our policy to succeed has evaporated. It may be that congress, even Republicans, have given up on trying to influence one of the most insulated, thick-headed and stubborn administrations in modern American history. An executive branch as close-knit as that of Bush II has no dissenters left, having frustrated Powell out of government and closed ranks even tighter in the second term. It appears as though all hope for a positive influence emerging from within Washington is gone. The disengagement speed may just come down to domestic politics and the 2006 mid-term elections. But we are in this together, like it or not, from Pat Robertson to Cindy Sheehan, and the world’s only Superpower should be able to turn Iraq around.

    The issue of whether or not we should have invaded Iraq is now totally inconsequential. If the democrats succeed in showing that Bush deliberately misled the public to sell the Iraq war, as they surely can, it will do nothing to change the mess we’re in. Past Presidents have used flimsy pretexts to start wars, such as the accidental explosion of the battleship Maine and the overblown and grossly misrepresented Gulf of Tonkin incident. McKinley and Johnson both used exaggerated/bogus claims to get a democracy to enter a war because they thought it was in the best interest of our nation. The time to inject these thoughts into the public debate was before the war started, when most Democrats were goose-stepping along with Bush or too afraid to speak up for fear of being labeled unpatriotic or weak on national security.

    If you remember the Vietnam War, it would not have mattered if we would have poured twice as many human and financial resources into the situation. We failed because our policy, at its base, was utterly malformed. If that is the case with Iraq, as it appears to be, and our policies are set in stone, as Bush presents them to be, we should withdraw promptly. However, Bush’s policy is not fully fixed, evidence being the Republican guard re-enrollment, reintroduction of former Baath party members to various offices and pledge to not negotiate with the insurgents/terrorists.

    As much as it may seem, the casualties we are taking in Iraq are nothing compared to past conflicts. The Brits lost about a fifth as many men in one month trying to control the immature American insurgency at Lexington / Concord and Breeds’ Hill (~400 KIA) as we have lost in 3 years in Iraq. In the 80’s, the Russians lost thousands of troops to Bin Laden and the U.S. funded mujahidin (taking casualties at nearly the same rate as we are in Iraq). However, the financial costs have been tremendous and many of the expenditures are entirely ridiculous.

    We are paying American and British multinationals billions to build infrastructure that the Iraqis could and have built for millions. Iraq had functioning electrical and water systems before we destroyed them as well as the capacity to build and maintain them. Those systems are still not fully rebuilt. What systems are rebuilt have different technology than Iraqi engineers are accustomed. Some Army Corps and other US military units have recognized that Iraqis need to be able to run their own country and have worked well to include them, but not hard enough. In Sadr City, hundreds of young potential militiamen have been put to work digging their own sewage system. Iraq doesn’t need state of the art, just the basics. We have simultaneously managed to waste billions of dollars (at least investors in Bechtel and Halliburton saw some of that money on the other side) while disengaging Iraqis from the rebuilding of their own country.

    We sent to Iraq the most pampered military forces that have ever set foot on a ‘battlefield’. I know I’ll catch some flak for saying this, but it’s true. Our troops can play Xbox, talk to home via satellite phones, eat Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, watch flat-screen TV’s, play foosball and sleep in climate controlled rooms on proper beds. In Vietnam-esque appropriations, we are spending billions extra on non-military “necessities” supposedly to boost the morale of our troops who are fighting insurgents that are more than willing to die because they have a sense of purpose, however malformed that sense may be. Can you imagine a soldier from the 101st Airborne who fought his way through Normandy to the Rhine complaining because he can’t get a Meatlovers® pizza?? Soldiers that fight well, do so because they believe in their country and purpose, not because Halliburton will supply them with video games and a comfortable single-wide trailer.

    This is why you can’t blame Bush and Cheney for repeating the bogus claim that Iraq was in cahoots with Al-Qaeda. The Armed forces needs that connection more than anyone so that they don’t miss their recruiting goals by even more. Most soldiers on the ground know that assertion is hogwash, but they also realize that now there is a definite and strong link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. Again, it gives Democrats epileptic fits to look past the untruths of the administration, but the country needs them focus on the future.

    The Democrats need to stop re-arguing the past and develop a real positive vision for the future. Iraq is not a total loss…yet. Sure, the pre-war planning and post-“Mission Accomplished” results indicate an amazingly incompetent executive policy apparatus. Heck, Paul Bremer just said that the US did not expect an insurgency in Iraq! However you go to war with the President you have, not the President you might want or wish to have at a later time as Rumsfeld would say. We can’t give up on this President because we are stuck in a war and we are stuck with him, love him or hate him, for 3 more years.

    Somebody needs to step forward. The Republicans won’t criticize the President and present a new plan for success in Iraq, although recently there has been a little noise from the GOP ranks. The Democrats focus on past mistakes and misleading statements while they seem to be concentrating on ways to withdraw from Iraq. Because most Dems have stopped trying to positively alter our President’s Iraq policy to ensure victory, the Republicans should step into the void. The GOP has control of all three branches of government, the power is in their hands, somebody prominent within the party must stand up. Failure in Iraq would lead to a region worse off than before the war. How do we get a real plan for success in Iraq when both sides of the aisle have given up the discussion?

    It is obvious that our approach to Iraq can be improved. Whatever that entails, be it a more unified command structure, better engagement of Iraqis in reconstruction, training Iraqi troops out of theater, giving the Sunnis political footing similar to Lebanese Christians, sustained communication with the insurgents, seriously enforcing the ban on armed militias, changing the Iraqi constitution to make oil revenues the property of the central government or many of the other sensible ideas out there, somebody should be a figurehead for positive change. Enter John McCain?

    B. Strosnider & G. Miller

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