The con­se­quences of fail­ure in Iraq

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

As the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion de­te­ri­o­rates in Iraq, there is grow­ing sup­port, par­tic­u­larly among po­lit­i­cal and me­dia elites, for the fol­low­ing ar­gu­ment: that de­feat is in­evitable, and that it might be prefer­able for the United States to aban­don Iraq and let the sit­u­a­tion there de­scend into all-out civil war.

Un­for­tu­nately, while war crit­ics have lit­tle dif­fi­culty to­talling up the costs of re­main­ing in Iraq, they talk as if there will be lit­tle or no ad­verse im­pact from let­ting that coun­try de­scend into an all-out civil war af­ter yank­ing out U.S. com­bat forces. They are fool­ing them­selves. One of the few peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton who is se­ri­ously ex­am­in­ing the con­se­quences of aban­don­ing Iraq is Ken­neth Pol­lack, who served on the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil staff dur­ing the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion. Though Mr. Pol­lack, now at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, was an early ad­vo­cate of de­pos­ing Sad­dam Hus­sein, he has been vo­cif­er­ously crit­i­cal of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s con­duct of the war. But he laments that an­ti­war Democrats seem to dis­miss the fact that there will be se­ri­ous, dam­ag­ing con­se­quences if the United States fails in sta­bi­liz­ing Iraq.

In ad­di­tion to be­ing a hu­man­i­tar­ian tragedy, a fullscale civil war in Iraq would likely spread into neigh­bor­ing coun­tries — some­thing that hap­pened time and over the past cen­tury. Mr. Pol­lack points to the fact that Arab-Jewish fight­ing broke out in 1929 in Bri­tish-oc­cu­pied Pales­tine. Arab re­fusal to ac­cept the 1947 U.N.-ap- proved plan to di­vide Pales­tine into sep­a­rate Arab and Jewish states kept the con­flict go­ing, and even­tu­ally it spilled over into other coun­tries, help­ing ig­nite civil wars in Jor­dan (1970-1971) and Le­banon (1975-1990). A fullscale civil war in Iraq would con­ser­va­tively speak­ing cre­ate hun­dreds of thou­sands of ad­di­tional refugees — who would be­come an ad­di­tional pool of re­cruit­ment for ji­hadists. In­deed, Hezbol­lah and al Qaeda, ar­guably the two most dan­ger­ous Is­lam­o­fas­cist groups to­day, were born in large part as a re­sult of civil wars.

A wors­en­ing civil war in Iraq could pull in neigh­bor­ing Sunni Mus­lim coun­tries as Saudi Ara­bia, Turkey, Kuwait and Jor­dan, to say noth­ing of the Shi’ite-dom­i­nated rogue-state coali­tion of Iran and Syria. In Le­banon, Pales­tinian in­ter­ven­tion was fol­lowed by in­va­sions from Syria and Is­rael; that con­flict con­tin­ues in con­stantly mu­tat­ing form to this day. Iraq could end up fol­low­ing the model of Yu­goslavia dur­ing the 1990s, where Ser­bia went to war against Slove­nia; Bos­nia-Herze­gov­ina; and Croa­tia; soon the un­rest spread to Mus­lim pop­u­la­tions in neigh­bor­ing Kosovo and Mace­do­nia. Rwanda, where tribal fight­ing be­gan in 1994 and soon spread to neigh­bor­ing Congo — and where civil war con­tin­ues rag­ing to this day, with all of Congo’s neigh­bors sup­port­ing one or more fac­tions — could also prove to be a cat­a­strophic model for what Iraq could look like if the United States leaves pre­ma­turely. And then there are the eco­nomic costs of a death spi­ral in Iraq, which could prove stag­ger­ing, par­tic­u­larly if it trig­gers a wider Mid­dle East war in­volv­ing Iraq’s oil-rich neigh­bors.

It is ir­re­spon­si­ble to pre­tend that aban­don­ing Iraq would have lit­tle or no ad­verse hu­man­i­tar­ian con­se­quences — to say noth­ing of the geopo­lit­i­cal catas­tro­phe it would be for the United States. He is too po­lite to say this, but Mr. Pol­lack makes a pow­er­ful im­plicit case that the neo-McGover­nite Democrats now dom­i­nat­ing pub­lic de­bate are be­ing in­tel­lec­tu­ally dis­hon­est when they sug­gest that leav­ing Iraq will some­how leave us in a stronger po­si­tion to fight the ji­hadists.

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