The explosion at the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, combined with the daily reports of Americans shot, blown up and otherwise ambushed, is making some Americans queasy about the job of reconstruction in Iraq. We know what the head-in-the-sand crowd is going to say. "Bring Them On?" asks the Nation magazine, no, "Bring Them Home."
But bringing them home would be the worst possible response to the violence -- though not one unprecedented in recent American history. When our troops in Beirut were blown up by terrorists, Ronald Reagan brought them home -- not instantly, but eventually. When the terrorists in Somalia dragged the bodies of our men through the streets of Mogadishu, President Clinton brought them home and thus sent a signal to Osama bin Laden and others.
Here is what the chief terrorist told ABC's John Miller in 1998: "We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weaknesses of the American soldier, who is ready to wage cold wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than 24 hours, and this was also repeated in Somalia. ... Our youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers. ... After a few blows, they ran in defeat. ... They forgot about being the world leader and leader of the new world order. (They) left, dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat."
As Reagan was known to say in a different context, "Weakness is provocative."
Bin Laden's wings have been severely clipped since 9-11, and he is no longer free to meet reporters in the open. But while he lives he remains a threat, as do too many of his co-religionists (meaning Islamists, not all Muslims).
So whether it is easy or hard, we must stay in Iraq and transform it into something reasonably approaching a free and open society. If we demonstrate any lack of resolve now that we have achieved real momentum in the war on terror, all of the victories we've achieved will turn to dust.
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