The Consequences of Failure

Big tip of the hat to Scott Johnson at Power Line for tipping me off to an excellent op-ed in the New York Times which makes one of the few correct comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam: that withdrawal before the task is done diminishes American credibility abroad.

Here's an excerpt from "Defeat's Killing Fields:"

Today, in Iraq, there should be no illusion that defeat would come
at an acceptable price. George Orwell wrote that the quickest way of
ending a war is to lose it. But anyone who thinks an American defeat in
Iraq will bring a merciful end to this conflict is deluded. Defeat
would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist
extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval.
The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate.
Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these

As in Indochina more than 30 years ago, millions of Iraqis today see
the United States helping them defeat their murderous opponents as the
only hope for their country. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have
committed themselves to working with us and with their democratically
elected government to enable their country to rejoin the world as a
peaceful, moderate state that is a partner to its neighbors instead of
a threat. If we accept defeat, these Iraqis will be at terrible risk.
Thousands upon thousands of them will flee, as so many Vietnamese did
after 1975.

The new strategy of the coalition and the Iraqis, ably directed by
Gen. David Petraeus, offers the best prospect of reversing the
direction of events — provided that we show staying power. Osama bin
Laden said, a few months after 9/11, that “when people see a strong
horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” The
United States, in his mind, is the weak horse. American defeat in Iraq
would embolden the extremists in the Muslim world, demoralize and
perhaps destabilize many moderate friendly governments, and accelerate
the radicalization of every conflict in the Middle East.

Our conduct in Iraq is a crucial test of our credibility, especially
with regard to the looming threat from revolutionary Iran. Our Arab and
Israeli friends view Iraq in that wider context. They worry about our
domestic debate, which had such a devastating impact on the outcome of
the Vietnam War, and they want reassurance.

When government officials argued that American credibility was at
stake in Indochina, critics ridiculed the notion. But when Saddam
Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, he and his colleagues invoked Vietnam
as a reason not to take American warnings seriously. The United States
cannot be strong against Iran — or anywhere — if we accept defeat in

Iraq History
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