From Justin’s reply to my last blog and from the comments that followed, I gather that my concern about a hasty American withdrawal from Iraq is not widely shared by my fellow-paleos. And some of the critical comments leveled at my argument do contain fragments of truth, e.g., that the troops now stationed in Iraq might be used to launch an attack on neighboring Iran, an extension of the present war that might happen even before the conflict in Iraq is settled; that there may in fact be no dignified way to pull out 160,000 American soldiers from a strife-ridden Iraq; and that some lesson must be sent to the meddling party that their interventionist foreign policy, which has a doubtful constitutional basis, will no longer be tolerated. There is also an additional argument that might be a weapon in my critics’ arsenal. All of the Republican presidential frontrunners, and particularly the “conservative” Fred Thompson, sound as if their brains had been snatched by Norman Podhoretz. Thompson in particular has become a global democratic yapper, and he may soon turn into the most dangerous of the Republican candidates, as he becomes the neocon alternative to Rudy. God help us if any of these Republicans wins! I’ve no doubt they’ll start new crusades for democracy.
Having said this, I must nonetheless break ranks on the suggested policy of a rapid withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. There is no way that we can achieve this without being internationally humiliated and without exposing our supporters in Iraq to horrible reprisals. A phased withdrawal might avoid some of these consequences. Since we cannot logistically and practically speaking pull out all of our troops and their weapons system, according to the most optimistic estimate offered by Gregory Cochran writing in the antiwar The American Conservative, in a time period of much under six months, it might be useful to extend our unwelcome stay a bit longer, lest we give the unseemly appearance of fleeing. My good friend and a longtime military analyst Jim Kurth, who has written widely on the subject of American disengagement and who has been from the start a self-described “traditionalist” critic of the American war in Iraq, insists that an American withdrawal, without some pacification of the country taking place, would be a bloody enterprise. In all likelihood, insurgents trying to improve their prospects in the subsequent power struggle, would harass our departing troops; and since these armies are scattered through Iraq, the disengagement would be far from a cakewalk. Kurth maintains there is no reason to assume that our withdrawal would be as relatively easy as was the removal of our troops from Vietnam in 1973. The Arab insurgents in Iraq, who in their propaganda have depicted Americans as quitters, might not show the same restraint as the North Vietnamese Communists in trying to mortify a departing army. A New Republic symposium (November 27, 2006) devoted precisely to the theme of an American withdrawal from Iraq raises all of these questions and more. I would urge my fellow-members of the antiwar Right to reconsider their position of the heart, even if after due consideration they do not change their opinions.