Again the question recurs: Withdraw to where? An American rout in Iraq is unlikely to inspire confidence about the desirability of hosting U.S. forces elsewhere in the region. The logic of the terrorists in Iraq ? namely, that foreign nationals can be taken hostage and/or executed in order to euchre their governments to disassociate themselves from the United States, a logic first shamefully affirmed by the socialist government in Spain ? will surely be applied in any of the Gulf States that might consider having us.
Vladimir Putin?s increasingly authoritarian and assertive Russia is unlikely to feel as constrained as in the past to countenance a sizeable American military footprint in its ?near-abroad.? For its part, Communist China is already exerting economic and political pressure to assert its dominance over East Asia. Will any of the PRC?s neighbors want to invite Beijing?s displeasure, especially when even what have traditionally been seen as tangible American security guarantees ? troops on the ground ? have been devalued by the demonstration in Iraq of U.S. unreliability when the going gets tough?
Of course, we could always bring the troops home, to their pleasure and that of their families. Once here, however, it is a reasonable bet that recent talk of increasing the size and combat power of our ground forces will disappear as the exiteers revert to form, arguing that the defense budget must contribute to deficit reduction.
The deplenished U.S. military capabilities that ensue have historically emboldened our adversaries. This is especially likely to be the case when convictions about the superiority of their ideology (which masquerades as a religion) have seemingly been powerfully affirmed by what would amount to our defeat in Iraq.
In short, the exit from Iraq on any basis other than victory is sure to prove an opening of the door to war in another theater ? our own. There, we will find ourselves fighting it where we least want to, on American soil, trying to protect targets that are vastly more susceptible to attack and with far more devastating consequences than any of those we abhor in Iraq.
Does this mean that U.S. forces must remain indefinitely at their current levels in Iraq? Of course it doesn?t.
What it does mean is that making decisions about the force levels and their role in the Battle of Iraq on any basis other than what conduces to stability and security for the Iraqi people will prove a far greater disaster than Sen. Kennedy perceives today. For the real ?quagmire? of our time is the one we would be in if we abandon Iraq with our tails between our legs and, thereby, enable the jihadists and their friends to fight us here, where we truly have no exit.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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