Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Israeli Raid

The plot line concerning the Israeli raid in Syria continues to gradually unfold. DEBKAfile has the latest.


The Aftermath of Withdrawal

Attempts by Democrats in Congress and the Left in general to force a withdrawal from Iraq seem to have subsided since General Petraeus gave his report to Congress last month. Unfortunately, some Democrats' reasons for not pursuing withdrawal are based more on political considerations than on a prudent regard for the potentially horrendous consequences of our leaving before Iraq is sufficiently stable to fend for itself. Nevertheless, it's good, in my opinion, that demands for an American retreat have faded. Here's why:

Let's think about what we can reasonably expect to happen if we withdraw our combat forces from Iraq. I'm not claiming that any of these consequences are certain to occur, but they are all plausible and they are all much more likely to happen if we pull out than if we stay:

1. Al Qaeda will move into Iraq in force and slaughter everyone they can find who cooperated with the U.S. They were slaughtering them before the surge, there's no reason to think that if we leave they'd suddenly have a change of heart. The victims would include government officials, police, military, trible leaders, professionals, etc. and the families of these people. Even if these amount to only 1% of the Iraqi population that would still be 250,000 people.

2. Shia militias and extremists like Muqtada al-Sadr will seek to settle old scores with the Sunni, especially the Baathists. In this they may be joined by the Kurds. The Sunnis will either flee the country or be murdered and have their property confiscated. This is a huge fear among the Sunni today and for many of them their only hope is that we stay to prevent this from happening.

3. It's very likely that there will be civil war over the oil fields.

4. It's very likely that Iran will see our withdrawal as an opportunity to seize the southern part of Iraq under the pretext of helping their fellow Shia.

5. It's likely that either Iran or Turkey, or both, would go to war with the Kurds in the north.

6. It's also likely that other Sunni Arab states would be pressured to come to the aid of their fellow Sunnis, thus intensifying the conflict and making Iraq an abattoir of war and death.

7. Because Iraq would become a battleground for both indigenous fighters and foreign forces the land would be thrown into chaos. The average Iraqi would find himself without food, medical care, and probably water, oil, and electricity. Education would shut down and Iraq's bustling economy would become a shambles. Starvation and disease would claim thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of lives, mostly children. War and retribution would claim thousands more. The total number of dead could easily top a million people.

8. It's also likely that, once we withdraw, the U.S. would be psychologically, logistically, and economically unable to go back into the Middle East to stop any of this. We would no more be able to go back into Iraq than we could have gone back into Vietnam or Cambodia.

9. Moreover, the Arab nations would sense that our withdrawal would be impossible to reverse, and see it as an opportunity to step up attacks on Israel without having to fear that we would wade back into the region to help. They would still have to fear our air force and navy, perhaps, but if they sense that our leaders in Washington have lost the will to use force they would be more likely to risk war with Israel if they think they could succeed in crippling or destroying them. Even if they are wrong about American willingness to come to the aid of Israel their misjudgment would still be catastrophic if it leads them to war with the Israelis.

10. Iran would see our withdrawal as a green light to continue developing nuclear weapons and the rest of the Middle East would be forced to do likewise to protect themselves from Iranian nuclear hegemony. Any war against Israel would be much more likely to involve nuclear weapons.

11. North Korea and China would both see us as unwilling to keep our commitments to our allies. The North Koreans might be emboldened by our lack of resolve to restart their nuclear program and threaten South Korea, and China would probably feel safe in initiating their long promised war to retake Taiwan. And who knows what effect our withdrawal would have in Moscow and Europe.

There are no certainties, of course, but the chances are good that our withdrawal would be a total disaster for the Middle East and the world.

It's hard to deny that at least some of what is forecast here would follow upon an American withdrawal from Iraq. More importantly, we can be assured that the chances of any or all of these horrors happening are far greater if we leave Iraq than if we stay. That alone, in my view, obligates us to continue our efforts to eliminate the terrorists, put down the insurgency, and help build the country. Contrary to what war critics allege, the stablity of the world depends upon the U.S. finishing the job in Iraq.

Opponents of our presence in Iraq don't usually try to deny that the awful events listed above are more likely to occur if we retreat. They simply argue that we've done enough, whether good or bad, and that we should pull out regardless of the consequences, and let the chips fall where they may. If we followed this policy, though, and a catastrophic bloodbath did ensue, our retreat would be seen by history as one of the most disgraceful moral blunders in the history of our nation.