Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Should We Stay Or Should We Go Now...

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. We are heavily investing in Iraq's economy and infrastructure and making progress every week. We pull out, we miss out.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.



Bag Blog said...

You make some great points. It is very frustrating to have some of our congressmen talking withdrawl, but it is the upcoming Presidential election that has them spouting what they think people want to hear. The media does not help any. Hopefully, the American people are smarter than the Liberal leadership thinks and wisdom will win in the end.

Milblogs, like yours, are very important to give a real picture of what is happening in Iraq. Thanks!

David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 07/12/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Anonymous said...

You’ll be sorry you asked for our opinions! I agree with what bag blog said. Part of it has to do with election year. The date they've stated for trrop withdrawal is September through March or April- a couple of months before the election and a couple of months after the inauguration. Nice timing, huh?

What the primary problem is that they are listening to the media. I heard a politician on the news say, in all seriousness, "There is no progress being made in Iraq." (You don't want to know what my response to that was!) The politicians, as usual, have no idea what is really going on. They believe what they are told by those that are pressing their own agenda.

In this day and age, everyone wants things NOW and to get it with the least amount of effort. Change takes time. Someone (somewhere) posted a link to a video of today's media reporting on WW II. It is ridiculous, but so true. WW II took time, and so won't this.

I didn't support this war when it started, but to pull out now would be stupid. Like you said, all the casualties would have been in vain. The people have learned to trust the coalition forces and are helping them by giving information to those same forces. How many will survive if we pull out? The news is already reporting the number of civilian casualties- the majority of which are the result of al-Qaida attacks. Will the media report the thousands of more that will be killed for helping the Americans? No, because then it would show the reality of the desertion of people who want and need our help.

membrain said...

I check your blog daily and this post just shines. Bag Blog has it right: it's politics meddling with peoples lives. Your analogy about the choice of being your generations Cuba or else your generation's post WWII is a very good analogy.

A retired American General who helped draft the current COIN plan said recently that to pull out of Iraq would prove to the world that America lacks charcter! Ouch.

Thanks for all that you do.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy you blog and appreciate your insightful views on the situation. However, to be nitpicky, the Clash lyrics are:

"..If I go there will be trouble
An' if I stay it will be double.."

mkfreeberg said...

This is such a great post. Not just because I agree with it, but because you're in a place to know what you're talking about.

Adult (n.): Someone capable of being confronted by two options that both suck, and systematically choosing the option likely to do less sucking, by non-random means. I'm disappointed at how many non-adults are running around; people who are incapable of this simple and vital skill. They want every single decision in life to give them a warm feeling. This one hasn't yet. This is all they need to pronounce the whole operation a bust. Child's thinking: warm feeling not there, no further debate necessary. I'll say it again: Disappointed.

I want to know four things when I choose from two options that both suck: The best-and-worst scenarios involved with Option A, and the best-and-worst with Option B. On this one, we're only 75% of the way there. I do not know the best-case scenario involved with pulling out right now. I consider it mighty peculiar, that the people soliciting support for an immediate pullout, or a non-negotiable timeframe for a pullout, won't tell me this. They're the ones who should be wanting to "sell" me that. When you're selling snake-oil, isn't it traditional to at least making the empty promise? They won't do that. On this point, they're silent.

So if nobody's got the balls to talk about the potential payoff to a sudden departure...why are we seriously talking about it? One of those questions I wish someone would ask, that nobody does.

Anonymous said...

Postings like yours are a great help in bucking up support on the homefront. You have credibility and first-hand knowledge. And as a reader over the last few months, I think I know what your agenda is -- to save life and limb. Like I said, credibility.
Thank you for both what you do and for sharing your views.

carobar said...

Thanks for keeping us informed. We can't count on the MSM for anything even remotely resembling the truth. I agree with you completely! God save us from the selfish and short-sighted.

Missy said...


Good post. Doubt I can really add anything more than what has already been posted - but I'll give it a shot. It's a pre-election year and most of the politicians are posturing based on polls. The good news is that this President is going to hold the line and give you guys time. The question is what about the next administration? I believe that in the end it is possible that they too will hold the line, but this is all predicated on Petraeus’s ability to perform and complete the mission. Thanks for the posting, and sharing your perspective.

Matti said...

How does that saying go? Wars are won in the will. There is a tremendous war going on right now here at home for the will of the American people. And the media plays a huge part in that. It's been so strange to witness the disconnect between the reports from the ground and the reports in the MSM. The MSM spins out the "We've failed! We've failed!" message over and over so that it introduces doubt into the American people's minds, ultimately damaging their will to succeed. I feel I can say this with confidence because I experienced the "MSM effect." About a year ago or so, when I watched the MSM fairly regularly, I slowly came to doubt and forget the most essential things not only about Iraq and but also about the "big picture." Just when I began to question if pull-out was the best thing, I found the blogs, the milblogs especially, and thank goodness. A nice dose of those, and my attitude changed completely. So keep up the good work Lt Go, because you're fighting a war on multiple fronts, and your blog, like all the milblogs, is essential to victory here.