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November 6, 2006
Troops Speak Out Against Withdrawal

We have heard a lot from the Democrats in this election season about supporting the troops by withdrawing them from Iraq. Terms like "phased redeployment" and "event horizon" have been thrown around by critics of the war. However, the people that will have to execute those maneuvers do not have much enthusiasm for them, the Washington Post reports:

For the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq, the war is alternately violent and hopeful, sometimes very hot and sometimes very cold. It is dusty and muddy, calm and chaotic, deafeningly loud and eerily quiet.

The one thing the war is not, however, is finished, dozens of soldiers across the country said in interviews. And leaving Iraq now would have devastating consequences, they said.

With a potentially historic U.S. midterm election on Tuesday and the war in Iraq a major issue at the polls, many soldiers said the United States should not abandon its effort here. Such a move, enlisted soldiers and officers said, would set Iraq on a path to civil war, give new life to the insurgency and create the possibility of a failed state after nearly four years of fighting to implant democracy.

"Take us out of that vacuum -- and it's on the edge now -- and boom, it would become a free-for-all," said Lt. Col. Mark Suich, who commands the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment just south of Baghdad. "It would be a raw contention for power. That would be the bloodiest piece of this war."

The soldiers declined to discuss the political jousting back home, but they expressed support for the Bush administration's approach to the war, which they described as sticking with a tumultuous situation to give Iraq a chance to stand on its own.

Not only do they see "phased redeployment" as a potential disaster, they see an improvement in the situation in Iraq. One New Jersey officer recently returned to Iraq for the first time since 2003 and tells the Post that Iraq had made real progress. A self-proclaimed liberal, he said, "Pulling out now would be as bad or worse than going forward with no changes," and predicted an end to democratic self-government almost immediately.

Worse still, the troops have worked hard to gain the trust of Iraqi civilians for over three years. They have created a network of relationships and intelligence links in the general population and alliances with tribal leaders. It took a long time for Iraqis to forget the betrayal of 1991, when the US failed to support a rebellion against Saddam Hussein after failing to march on Baghdad during the first Gulf War. A "phased redeployment" would abandon those same people all over again to the terrorists within and outside of Iraq.

None of them have any illusions that Iraq will suddenly and miraculously find peace. The soldiers and Marines on the ground believe it will take a long time and much hard work to bring a democratic Iraq to full viablity, at least completely. They tell the Post that the Kurdish region is only about four or five months away from full autonomy and self-sufficiency in terms of security (economically, they're farther ahead than that). Baghdad will be the toughest nut to crack, they all acknowledge, and that might take years of effort. However, all of them believe in the mission and see that the alternative consigns the Iraqis to tyranny and terrorism for decades or more.

The mission has had its failures, but it has had tremendous successes as well. If the US turns its back on the Iraqis now, Somalia will pale into insignificance in comparison to the disaster, both militarily and strategically, we will have brought upon ourselves. Native populations will never -- never -- trust us to stand by and protect them after risking everything to assist us. Tyrants and terrorists will laugh at our threats, knowing they can outlast us, especially if they can create enough propaganda to distract American voters.

The soldiers and Marines understand that victory cannot be replaced by "phased redeployment". If the tactics need changing or adjustment, then bring in better ideas -- but we cannot allow retreat and capitulation become the only other option for Iraq.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 6, 2006 6:54 AM

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