I live in a vacuum. I have Internet access, obviously, but it's slow and mostly unreliable. However, when I do have it, I make a point of scanning today's headlines, the progress (or lack thereof) interpreted by the media, and editorials from a number of sources.
What I do offer on a personal level to you is an eyewitness account of what is happening in my little part of this world and this war. Ramadi, although a small portion of Anbar Province by geographical size, is a highly prominent city. What comes and goes through Syria must pass through Ramadi.
What I read in popular media is that a percentage the public wants out. As in, withdraw the troops from Iraq. The Senate, with the Democrats leading and a small but growing minority of Republicans joining them, are insisting on a definitive timetable of with drawl. The drumbeats have been pounding for months, and are steadily growing into a crescendo that can be heard well beyond Washington.
Is it just me, or is there so much rhetoric flying around that the truth is somehow getting lost. Day by day, I find it harder to ascertain who is actually staying objective and who has hidden agendas, biases, has an axe to grind, or just plain likes to hear themselves talk.
I won't do this often, as this blog is not my personal political platform. I ask you to consider a few key points:
- We are here. I won't get into why we initially came, but the fact is irrefutable: here we are with a significant presence in Iraq and the Middle East. We have a foothold in by far the world's most unstable region.
- Many brave men and women have lost their lives for this tenuous foothold. After all they and many others have sacrificed, to leave now would be a disservice to them, their families, and all that we want to accomplish: a stable and prosperous Iraqi government free of terrorism. A Middle East free of extremes.
- It sure doesn't seem like it now, but a permanent, or at least long-term, Western presence in the Middle East may lead to significant stabilization of a historically unstable region.
- We are heavily investing in Iraq's economy and infrastructure and making progress every week. We pull out, we miss out.
- Finally, after years of indifference and outright hostility, regional tribes, clans, and sheiks are aligned with us. There were mistakes along the way. The road we initially took was littered with misunderstandings. But week by week, the potholes are disappearing. Like a recently paved interstate, the clans and councils from Baghdad to Anbar are rapidly taking over their own security and governmental processes. Are they self-sufficient and self-reliant. Nope. Not even close. However, if it wasn't for our resources, infrastructure, and corporate knowledge they wouldn't stand a chance to succeed. Pulling out now is a poor option indeed.
- Baghdad, and the main government currently in place, is not meeting our benchmarks. However, we also did not meet our own benchmarks: Baghdad and parts of Anbar Province are still wickedly dangerous places. We have a plan to correct that problem, but it's only been in place for a month. The surge needs more than a few weeks before politicians deem it a failure. From where I'm standing, that borders on the ridiculous. Time may prove me wrong, but at least I won't mark my opinions before giving it a chance. The Iraqi government will continue to miss deadlines and benchmarks so long as Baghdad and the surrounding provinces remain unstable.
- I finish with a question: we have maintained a presence in Europe for over 50 years. Does the U.S. have a permanent place in Iraq, too?
Progress is slow, I admit. However, who gets to set the timetable for success? Who defines success, and what is it? Right now, there are still many more questions than answers. That is exactly why setting timetables for withdrawl would, in my humble opinion, be a grave mistake. I fear it would spell a total failure and complete negation of my and many others' sacrifice. Our options:
- Set a timetable and start phasing troops out of Iraq. This Country is guaranteed to fall into anarchy. Iran will more than likely move in from the East, while Syria moves in from the West. The sectarian squabbling between Shiite and Sunni we see now will pale in comparison to how badly this region would spin out of control. Iraq goes down in history as my generation's Vietnam: an abject failure at best; catastrophic mistake if radial idealism and anti-Western hatred spread throughout the globe.
- We stay permanently in a few key areas around Iraq. Worst case scenario: Iraq becomes my generation's Cuba. We maintain a tolerated presence despite occasional open hostility.
- We stay permanently, and Iraq becomes my generation's Post-World War II Europe. We maintain a presence and work hand in hand with the Iraqi government. We patiently wait until they are organized and stable enough to take the lead, and we give them full autonomy while maintaining open-ended leases on a few key military bases.
To borrow heavily a few lyrics from The Clash, my question stands as this: should we stay or should we go now? If we stay there will be trouble, and if we go it will be double...
(pulled from Yahoo news) Despite a steady procession of Republicans calling for a change in course, several GOP lawmakers warned against a precipitous withdrawal.
"I believe that our military in cooperation with our Iraqi security forces are making progress in a number of areas," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who recently returned from his sixth trip to the region. The GOP presidential candidate said he noted a dramatic drop in attacks in Ramadi in the western Anbar province.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who accompanied McCain to Iraq, also cited progress since Gen. David Petraeus took command several months ago and the additional troops began arriving.
The Iraqis are "rejecting al-Qaida at every turn. I don't want the Congress to be the cavalry for al-Qaida," he said.
Graham was also part of a group of senators who met privately during the day with Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, and Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, a top adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The senator said afterward the White House is looking at new ways to hasten progress in two primary areas: destroying al-Qaida in Iraq and forcing the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad to make political progress.