Dear President Bush,
Now that you have had nearly a month to recover from the midterm election, I would like to humbly suggest that you once again focus your attention on the situation in Iraq, and its resolution.
There are two overarching concerns which I believe must be addressed immediately.
The first is the lack of a clearly-defined objective. What it is that we hope to accomplish in Iraq, and in the greater Middle East, must be determined. Then, both you and the Republican Party – which you lead, and which is still in control of Congress until the end of this year – must commit fully to that objective. Without a clearly defined goal, and without progress markers along the way, the undertaking in Iraq is less action with a purpose than a lethally directionless enterprise.
The second concern is the radically uneven playing field, with regard to the tactics, the techniques, and the firepower which each side is willing to employ.
Regardless of the reasoning behind it, we have been forcing our troops to fight with one hand (if not both) tied behind their backs – a situation which affords our enemies tremendous advantage.
From allowing “insurgents” to flee into – or to hide weapons caches within – mosques, to allowing our courts to rule that the due process granted to American citizens be afforded terrorists and enemy combatants, to refusing to forcefully interrogate captive terrorists (although when US soldiers were captured, they were not only brutally tortured, but beheaded and mutilated beyond recognition), combat in Iraq has become dangerously asymmetrical.
Make no mistake about it, Mr. President – these are extreme circumstances. We are fighting a war which extends far beyond the bounds of what could be defined as “usual combat,” and we must get a firm grip on this situation before it is too late.
What began as a war to increase the security of the United States, to depose a murderous tyrant, and to bring democracy to a region long known for dictatorships, quickly saw the successful removal of Saddam, as well as the strengthening of America's homeland security by causing terrorists to fight us there, rather than on American soil.
What did not follow, though, was the quick and easy pacification of a region which has long known brute strength as its only currency, and violence as its only bargaining tool.
If we are to defeat this enemy on a foreign battlefield now, rather than facing it on our own shores at some point in the future, then our only option is to stop playing defense, and take the fight to them.
Going into Iraq initially sent the message that America and her allies would not sit idly by while rogue dictators thumbed their noses at us, or while terrorists plotted to murder us all. It sent a message that the West was strong – and it made those who would do us harm take note.
Mumar Qaddafi got the message; within weeks of our invasion of Iraq, he was begging for the opportunity to give up Libya’s weapons of mass destruction.
Unfortunately, what has been happening since then has also made our enemies take note – but in an entirely different way.
Our enemies have long since noted America’s unease at the sight of its own blood being shed, and of soldiers in flag-draped coffins; thus, they have taken care to provide copious amounts of both. They have noted our refusal to pursue terrorists into mosques, or to return fire when civilians may be in danger (though they freely slaughter their own innocent without compunction), and they have used each of these to their advantage. Finally, our enemies have long since learned how to use America’s media against her – and they have done so spectacularly.
What must be done to reverse this tsunami of insurgent and terrorist advantage? What must we accomplish to call Iraq a success and to be able to leave?
The latter is something which must be decided immediately. Mr. President, we must define the mission, both in the short- and long-term.
Then, the next step must be taken: not only must our hands be unbound, but our gloves must come off. America has the greatest fighting force the world has ever known, and, though it has been successful in a great deal of the mission, we are once again being slowly bested on an asymmetrical battlefield.
We set a precedent when we sacrificed thousands taking and retaking the same square inches of jungle in Vietnam, and then fled the country, allowing it to be taken over by those we had ostensibly been dying to protect our ally against. We reinforced that precedent in 1983 when we fled Beirut, and further added to it ten years later, when we turned tail and ran from Mogadishu – an act which Osama bin Laden himself has credited with proving that America was a mere “paper tiger.”
Virtually no accomplishment is impossible for America, provided that her people and her leaders do not waver, and do not give up on the mission before success has been achieved.
Mr. President, those who rail against the war, against you, and against America herself must not be heeded right now. You must maintain your focus, and not allow this mission to be compromised. Every day that the fighting continues, more of America’s finest – real people, with real lives, real families, and real futures – are dying. Every one of them volunteered for this duty, and every one, to the last individual, is willing to give his or her life on a foreign battlefield for the cause of keeping America secure, and her people safe.
Abandoning this mission, or allowing it to be continued in this manner, compromises and marginalizes every one of those battlefield deaths, and further decreases the likelihood of accomplishing that goal for which each life has been given.
President Bush, your party – our party – lost this election. It may well have been a referendum on Iraq; certainly the two were not unrelated.
However, regardless of the election, of impending investigations, of media outcry, and of the opposition’s demands, here is what you MUST do, for the good of the nation: straighten your back, lift your head up, and reenter the arena, committed to, and ready for, the fight – and allow America’s armed forces to do what they do best, which is to fight and win wars, and to do so decisively, leaving no question in the minds of our enemies what the consequences are of taking on America, or of threatening her innocents.
Sir, I served, as did 25 million other men and women now living in this nation. Since the discontinuation of the draft, every person who has put on the uniform of this greatest nation the world has ever known has done so willingly, and with a full understanding of the risks involved – and, in volunteering for that service, has, in essence, said to any who would attempt to harm our innocents: “Here I am. Take me instead; for not only am I able to fight to protect the innocent among us, bit I am willing to die to do so, as well.”
Mr. President, you have asked our armed forces to fulfill that blood oath, and they have responded spectacularly, like the true champions and heroes that they are. Now we must make a request of you: fulfill the commitment you made when you decided to cash that chit with their blood, sweat, and tears by going into Iraq in the first place. That responsibility encompasses these two tasks:
(1) Establish the objective, set the mission, and allow your armed forces to complete it.
(2) Never, EVER allow yourself to waver in your commitment to their total victory.
If you can fulfill these responsibilities, then we can succeed. Our troops are both committed and willing, Mr. President – the rest is up to you.