If en­ter­ing Iraq was a mis­take, leav­ing would be worse

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - DEN­NIS PRAGER

In ar­riv­ing at their de­ci­sion that Amer­ica should with­draw its forces from Iraq, the Demo­cratic Party and the Left around the world reg­u­larly make ref­er­ence to what they re­gard as Amer­ica’s ini­tial er­ror — in­vad­ing Iraq.

Per­haps the Left is cor­rect in its con­tentions that bring­ing free­dom to a Mus­lim Arab coun­try at this time in his­tory is im­pos­si­ble and that an Iraq un­der Sad­dam Hus­sein would be bet­ter for Amer­i­can and world se­cu­rity.

But even if the war was a ma­jor blun­der and even if ev­ery­thing the Left charges — in­clud­ing “Bush lied” — were true, none of th­ese con­tentions has any bear­ing on the ques­tion of what should be done now.

The pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of the Left with the al­leged wrong­ness of the war and the al­leged de­ceit of Pres­i­dent Bush is an­other ex­am­ple of pas­sion rather than rea­son de­ter­min­ing a left­ist po­si­tion on a ma­jor is­sue.

A re­spon­si­ble, ra­tio­nal op­po­nent of the war in Iraq and of Mr. Bush would say, “I am ap­palled by the dis­as­trous war in Iraq, ap­palled by the wasted Amer­i­can lives, ap­palled by the moral waste­land of Iraq, and I loathe this pres­i­dent. But we are in Iraq. And as much as I loathe sup­port­ing any­thing this pres­i­dent does and as much as I op­pose this war, I know what is likely to hap­pen if we leave Iraq. So I can­not in good con­science ad­vo­cate an Amer­i­can with­drawal or fix­ing a spe­cific date to do so.”

In a re­cent col­umn I ar­gued that the Left rarely asks “What hap­pens next?” when ad­vo­cat­ing so­cial pol­icy. I of­fered nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples. With­drawal from Iraq and an­nounc­ing that Amer­ica has “lost the war” are the latest and most egre­gious. If we leave Iraq: It will be a great vic­tory for the most dan­ger­ous ide­ol­ogy on earth to­day. The peo­ple run­ning North Korea are pre­sum­ably as evil as the Is­lamists. But there is no ide­ol­ogy em­a­nat­ing from North Korea that threat­ens mankind. We are fight­ing an ide­ol­ogy, sup­ported by mil­lions of peo­ple, that wishes to con­quer the world and rou­tinely en­gages in mass mur­der of the in­no­cent — es­pe­cially the in­no­cent — to achieve its to­tal­i­tar­ian goals.

No one will trust Amer­ica’s com­mit­ment for the fore­see­able fu­ture. Na­tions and forces aligned with Amer­ica against free­domhat­ing en­e­mies will con­clude that it is ac­tu­ally quite easy to de­feat the United States of Amer­ica. Just kill rel­a­tively few of that coun­try’s sol­diers, and the U.S.A. will soon aban­don you.

The very best Iraqis — and mem­bers of their fam­i­lies — will be slaugh­tered like an­i­mals.

It will mean the end of the pos­si­bil­ity of the rise of a mod­er­ate form of Is­lam for the fore­see­able fu­ture, per­haps gen­er­a­tions. In the Arab/Mus­lim world, might is revered, and the vic­to­ri­ous Is­lamists will there­fore be revered. More­over, they will have earned the right to claim that they con­sti­tute an un­stop­pable force. If Amer­ica, the most pow­er­ful coun­try in the world, sur­ren­ders to them be­cause the Is­lamists mur­der fel­low Mus­lims and killed the in­de­scrib­ably tragic but mil­i­tar­ily small to­tal of 3,000 sol­diers in four years — one-one-hun­dredth the losses the U.S. ex­pe­ri­enced in World War II — who in the Mus­lim world will stand up to them?

Iraq will turn into a far more po­tent ter­ror base than Afghanistan could ever be. One of the ma­jor pow­ers of the Arab world, one of the most oil-rich coun­tries in the world, may well be ruled by ji­hadists.

Mod­er­ate Arab regimes will likely be over­thrown by a com­bi­na­tion of an em­bold­ened Iran and an Is­lamist Iraq that re­gards mod­er­ate Arabs and Mus­lims as loath­some as, if not more so than, Amer­i­cans and Jews. It is al­most in­con­ceiv­able, for ex­am­ple, that the Jor­da­nian monar­chy would long sur­vive an Amer­i­can de­feat in Iraq.

The Amer­i­can mil­i­tary will suf­fer a cri­sis of morale that it will not soon over­come. Though de­feated not by the Is­lamist en­emy but by the Amer­i­can Left — most par­tic­u­larly the Demo­cratic Party and the main­stream news me­dia — it will be hard to con­vince many peo­ple to join or stay in the U.S. mil­i­tary. Why bother? Even if you do a great job, if you haven’t done it all — what­ever ‘all’ means in a place like Iraq — you will be told that you lost the war.

And those who have hereto­fore mur­dered fel­low Mus­lims will fo­cus their at­ten­tion on mur­der­ing us. The left dis­misses the ar­gu­ment that it is far bet­ter to fight them in Iraq than in Europe and Amer­ica. But the dis­missal is sim­ply ir­ra­tional. The peo­ple we are fight­ing, in­clud­ing Osama bin Laden and all the vari­a­tions on al Qaeda, know that the bat­tle for Iraq is the bat­tle for their fu­ture — that if they win in Iraq, they win all over the Mid­dle East and be­yond; that if they lose there, Amer­ica and the West win.

But none of this mat­ters to the Left be­cause Democrats and oth­ers on the Left do not ask what will hap­pen if Amer­ica leaves Iraq. They are cer­tain that the war was wrong, and that, in ad­di­tion to hand­ing Mr. Bush and the Repub­li­cans a de­feat, is what they seem to care about.

Den­nis Prager is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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