On July 8, the New York Times ran an historic editorial entitled “The Road Home,” demanding an immediate American withdrawal from Iraq. It is rare that an editorial gets almost everything wrong, but “The Road Home” pulls it off. Consider, point by point, its confused—and immoral—defeatism.
1. “It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.”
Rarely in military history has an “orderly” withdrawal followed a theater-sized defeat and the flight of several divisions. Abruptly leaving Iraq would be a logistical and humanitarian catastrophe. And when scenes of carnage begin appearing on TV screens here about latte time, will the Times then call for “humanitarian” action?
2. “Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward.”
We’ll get to the war’s “sufficient cause,” but first let’s address the other two charges that the Times levels here against President Bush. Both houses of Congress voted for 23 writs authorizing the war with Iraq—a post-9/11 confirmation of the official policy of regime change in Iraq that President Clinton originated. Supporters of the war included 70 percent of the American public in April 2003; the majority of NATO members; a coalition with more participants than the United Nations alliance had in the Korean War; and a host of politicians and pundits as diverse as Joe Biden, William F. Buckley, Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton, Francis Fukuyama, Kenneth Pollack, Harry Reid, Andrew Sullivan, Thomas Friedman, and George Will.
And there was a Pentagon postwar plan to stabilize the country, but it assumed a decisive defeat and elimination of enemy forces, not a three-week war in which the majority of Baathists and their terrorist allies fled into the shadows to await a more opportune time to reemerge, under quite different rules of engagement.
3. “While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs—after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.”