The mid - term elections, the resignation of Secretary Rumsfeld, the upcoming Baker report, the president’s trip to Jordan have all intensified the debate over the Iraq war. Emboldened by the congressional election, pundits and politicians are calling for the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
But what would that mean to us strategically, as well as morally?
In the November issue of the New Republic, writer David Rieff says that withdrawal must come "sooner rather than later." He writes that the "American public has grown fed up with the entire venture" and will not support a protracted stay in Iraq, much less an escalation. Well, maybe so: That’s certainly true for those who believe the polls should govern us.
But there is more to leadership than reading polls. Leadership is about seeing and articulating all that is at stake. Our leaders, especially the president, are facing right now an agonizing decision. And we, as Christians, ought to be praying for godly wisdom.
The options are pretty bleak. If we leave now with the insurrection gaining strength, Iraq will deteriorate into full - fledged chaos: the Shiites vs. the Sunnis vs. the Kurds, with unimaginable bloodletting.
Iran cannot help but step in on the side of their fellow Shiites in Iraq. In fact, this would further Tehran's ambition to become the region's dominant power, an ambition that has led Iran not only to support Iraq’s Shiites, but Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well.
If this happens, America will be even less safe than it is today. Bernard Lewis of Princeton, arguably the most knowledgeable expert in the world on the Middle East, recently wrote that the presence of American troops in Iraq has prevented another terror attack on the United States. The terrorists are pinned down in Iraq. So, Lewis says that the premature withdrawal of American forces would result in terror attacks like September 11 on America.
But, though you do not hear this discussed very often, Israel, the only democracy and reliable U.S. ally in the region, would be in grave peril. Three months ago, Hezbollah fought Israeli troops to a standstill. A U.S. withdrawal would open the floodgates for Iran to further arm and supply Hezbollah on Israel's borders.
If we follow Rieff's counsel, the entire Muslim world will see it as a huge victory in the clash of civilizations, the kind of thing bin Laden has been predicting all along, and the terrorists would be emboldened — Israel, perhaps, finished.
That's why — painful though it is — I think Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) is right: What's needed — in the short run, at least — is to increase troops, subdue the insurrection, and then gradually withdraw from a stabilized Iraq. For taking such a politically unpopular stand, McCain deserves the Profiles in Courage award.
But look at the facts: Every time we have put more troops into theater we have reduced casualties and the insurrection has been subdued, and every time we've withdrawn troops the casualties go up — the insurrection intensifies.
The alternative — confirming bin Laden's belief that the United States is a paper tiger — is unacceptable in a world as dangerous as ours, for reasons I'll explain more fully on "BreakPoint" tomorrow.