Monday, April 26, 2004

I hate to be pessimistic, but...

... the U.S. is going to lose the war in Iraq.

Ask yourself this question: where do you envision Iraq five years from now? Do you see a stable democratic government taking hold, ushering in an era of stability and security, an era where Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds cooperate in the governing of the Iraqi state? Or do you see more chaos?

Iraq is less a war in the conventional sense of the word than a war of public opinion. Militarily, we are far superior to our opponent; but when Iraqi rebels hide in mosques it becomes difficult to use superior firepower. Yes, if we wanted we could easily destroy every single cluster of resistance; the point, though, is that in doing so we would thoroughly alienate the Iraqi population.

The war for public opinion is not only in Iraq but here. Consider the results of the Pew poll which came out yesterday. In response to the question "Do you think the U.S. should keep military troops in Iraq until a stable government is established there, or do you think the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible?" 53% of the people said they supported keeping the troups in Iraq and 40% said they supported bringing them home as soon as possible. Moreover, support for keeping troups in Iraq has decreased over time; the first time the Pew poll ran this question in Sept 2003, 64% supported keeping troups in Iraq as long as it takes.

So: we have reached the point where two-fifths of the American public want their troops brought home as soon as possible, regardless of the situation in Iraq.

More importantly: support for bringing the troops home immediately can only increase. Can you think of event that
will shore up support for the war? What could possibly happen to those who think our troops need to be brought home immediately change their minds? On the other hand, more violence in Iraq, continued over a large period of time, will make the 53% of the people who do support keeping the troops change their opinion. The numbers support this analysis: support for bringing the troops home has slowly but consistently increased over the nine months.

It is a war of wills. The terrorists realize that they do not need to defeat us militarily; they only need to create carnage and chaos for a sufficiently large period of time until the majority of Americans want to bring the troops home. Is the will of the American people greater than the will of the terrorists?

Not in this case. Now that no WMDs have been found, Bush can offer no coherent rationale for staying in Iraq except to help the Iraqi people create a democracy. So the primary reason to stay in Iraq is humanitarian;but the American people had no stomach for this in Somalia -- why should this case be any different? Call me a pessimist, but while I supported the Iraqi war from the beginning, and while I support staying in Iraq as long as it takes now, I just don't think the American public will be willing to tolerate Fallujah-type casualties for altruistic reasons.


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