An admiral writes in:
How do we get out of Iraq without looking weak? A large part of defense is perception. I doubt that we can reshape the world because the forces that formed these United States of America are not present in the middle east and are not even recognized here. It will not take. Even in Afghanistan, success cannot be assured. Too much has been done for politics in conflict with reason.
My problem is that I do not wish to draw active hostility toward our homeland. If we look weak, then it will be easier to recruit agents for another attack on American soil. Our adversaries must think twice before launching such a strike. How can we pull back without making our adversaries feel that they can defeat us?
We can’t. And this is why it was so apallingly stupid for the Bush administration to enter Iraq without a coherent and public exit plan. Had they stuck to their public professions of being led to act by the need to remove a dangerous dictator and eliminate WMDs, the troops would have been home a year ago and the world would still be in shock and awe at the ease with which we accomplished our military aims.
But because it was either misled by the seemingly effortless success of the venture or because it had made the mistake of signing on to the World Democratic Revolutionary program from the start, the administration will now look weak and feckless when it pulls out. As I see it, the primary question is this: does the administration wish to give an impression of apparent defeat by pulling out now of its own volition, or does it need to suffer an actual defeat and be forced to withdraw under fire. The impression is to be preferred to the reality, in my opinion. In any case, we cannot win a war of attrition, that should be obvious to everyone.
There is a third possibility, of course. An attack on America by Syrians or Iranians that so inflames the American people that they discover a new appetite for the increasingly misnamed War on Terror, but that would only buy the administration some time and lead to a repetition of the exercise. Then again, if one considers recent history, one can’t dismiss the possibility that this administration would respond to an Iranian attack by invading Indonesia.
The truth is that immigration controls and enforcing existing immigration laws would do far more to reduce the likelihood of attacks on American soil than killing another ten thousand Iraqis. Our soldiers in Baghdad didn’t prevent that Coptic family from being murdered in New Jersey last week, after all. Europe has only begun to consider its immigration-related perils; we haven’t even started. It is said that the best defense is a good offense, but I’ve never seen an NFL coach tell his quarterback to line up in the secondary. Our defense isn’t even on the field.