Exit to where? (WASHINGTON TIMES COMMENTARY) By Frank J. Gaffney Jr. 02/01/05)
WASHINGTON TIMES Articles-Index-Top
"Stop the world, I want to get off" was the title of a once popular
theatrical comedy. Today, it seems to be the mantra of Sen. Teddy
Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and others who demand the United
States have an "exit strategy" from Iraq. Mr. Kennedy has even
announced its first step should be the immediate withdrawal of 12,000
The problem is, exit to where? The truth is, whether we like it or
not, the United States cannot exit the global war waged against us by
Islamofascist terrorists and their allies, any more than we can stop
the world and get off it.
In fact, were America actually to heed the siren´s call issued by
Mr. Kennedy before Sunday´s remarkable election in Iraq made doing
so, at least for the moment, unimaginable and retreat from the
Iraqi front in that war, it would simply assure we will fight these
enemies far closer to home and, indeed, in all likelihood here.
Let´s be clear: The discredited Left, epitomized by Mr. Kennedy,
proposes a reprise of their cut-and-run exit strategy in Vietnam.
Just leave and if somebody else wants to take over say, the United
Nations so be it.
But, whether the U.N. or anybody else is willing and able to help
secure and stabilize Iraq, according to this view, is not our
concern. We simply no longer have the stomach for the effort to which
a far greater Kennedy, President John F., and his incumbent successor
have pledged our national prestige and resources: Standing with those
who seek freedom and against their oppressors. The lesser Mr. Kennedy
seems fully prepared to cut our losses and have the devil (or at
least a Saddamlike version of him) take the hindmost.
More sophisticated and putatively more responsible would-be exiters
(including some oft-quoted Republican ones) are not prepared, for the
moment, to demand immediate withdrawal of American forces. Yet, they
provide political cover for those who do by suggesting that leaving
on some timetable governed not by the situation on the ground but by
our desire to be done with Iraq is morally defensible and
Both strains of exit strategists are taking heart from opinion polls
suggesting that growing numbers of Americans are similarly minded.
While their campaign may be temporarily set back by the Jan. 30
elections´ dramatic affirmation of the Iraqi people´s desire to be
free, the exiters seem to hope continuing violence there will
inexorably translate popular weariness and frustration here into
irresistible pressure for withdrawal of our forces. For some at
least, the fact the nation would thus suffer an epic strategic defeat
is less important than is their ambition to deal Mr. Bush a
politically crippling one.
Again the question recurs: Withdraw to where? An American rout in
Iraq is unlikely to inspire confidence about the desirability of
hosting U.S. forces elsewhere in the region. The logic of the
terrorists in Iraq namely, that foreign nationals can be taken
hostage and/or executed to euchre their governments´ disassociation
from the United States, a logic first shamefully affirmed by Spain´s
socialist government will surely be applied in any Gulf States that
considers having us.
Vladimir Putin´s increasingly authoritarian and assertive Russia is
unlikely to feel as constrained as in the past to countenance a
sizable American military footprint in its "near- abroad." For its
part, Communist China is already exerting economic and political
pressure to assert its dominance over East Asia. Will any of the
PRC´s neighbors want to invite Beijing´s displeasure, especially when
even what have traditionally been seen as tangible American security
guarantees troops on the ground have been devalued by the
demonstration in Iraq of U.S. unreliability when the going gets
Of course, we could always bring the troops home, to their pleasure
and that of their families. But afterward, it is a reasonable bet
recent talk of increasing the size and combat power of our ground
forces will disappear as the exiteers revert to form, arguing the
defense budget must help cut the deficit.
The deplenished U.S. military capabilities that ensue have
historically emboldened our adversaries. This is especially likely to
be so when convictions about the superiority of their ideology (which
masquerades as a religion) have seemingly been powerfully affirmed by
essentially a U.S. defeat in Iraq.
In short, the exit from Iraq on any basis other than victory is sure
to open the door to war in another theater our own. There, we will
find ourselves fighting where we least want to, on American soil,
trying to protect targets vastly more susceptible to attack and with
far more devastating consequences than any of those we abhor in Iraq.
Does this mean U.S. forces must remain indefinitely at their current
levels in Iraq? Of course it doesn´t.
What it does mean is that making decisions about the force levels and
their role in the Battle of Iraq on any basis other than what
conduces to stability and security for the Iraqi people will prove a
far greater disaster than Mr. Kennedy perceives today. For the
real "quagmire" of our time is the one we would be in if we abandon
Iraq with our tails between our legs and, thereby, enable the
jihadists and their friends to fight us here, where we truly have no
exit. Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security
Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times. (Copyright 2005 News
World Communications, Inc. 02/01/05)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY