For more than a year, my Democratic colleagues have called for our withdrawal from Iraq because urging such a course was politically advantageous.
They have tried many strategies, from demanding adherence to artificial time tables to trying to force negotiations with Iran and Syria, countries known to be inciting the violence in Iraq, all to no avail. Now an emboldened Democratic-controlled Congress, eager to court favor with the far-left of their party for the coming 2008 presidential election, has embraced a new strategy for American defeat in Iraq: a resolution to prevent the president from carrying out his strategy of sending additional troops to Iraq to end the violence.
This resolution has already been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. While nonbinding, the resolution clearly is intended to send a message to the president that this Congress can — and won’t hesitate to — “cut and run” if the going gets tougher, as it is sure to do. It also sends a dangerous message to our fighting men and women in Iraq, that this Democratic Congress is not serious about supporting them. It seems to me this resolution, binding or not, aims precisely to precipitate withdrawal at the cost of more American lives, for purely political purposes, and I find it shameful.
If our troops don’t receive the vital support they need — support that would come from the president’s surge — they won’t be able to execute the missions necessary to secure Iraq, which means more bloodshed. Eventually we would reach a point where militarily, our battle for Iraq would be unwinnable, and we will have no choice but to withdraw.
America has invested heavily in Iraq, in both blood and treasure. Despite what the war’s critics would like to think, Iraq has become the central front in the Global War on Terror, and the terrorists know it. If we withdraw from this pivotal front before we defeat the terrorists, we will pay for it with the lives of our many men and women already in Iraq, and we will pay for it in the future, on even bloodier battlefields. American defeat would be detrimental to our long-term security, to say nothing of what it would do to the Middle East’s geopolitical landscape.
Our military certainly faces hardships going forward, but one of those hardships should not be the knowledge that members of Congress are actively plotting to derail the president’s new way forward before it even gets off the ground, at the cost of American lives.
I know Americans, constantly bombarded with nothing but bad news from the media about Iraq, are growing war-weary. But sometimes courageous decisions must be made no matter how unpopular they are, and the president has done that: He has admitted the mistakes of the past and as commander in chief, he has put forward a new strategy encompassing the lessons learned from those mistakes, which promises a new way forward to a secure Iraq.
Our struggle will not end once Iraq is secured, as many Democrats seem to think it will. This myopic view prevents them from seeing that, while Iraq is the current focal point of our fight against terrorism, there is a much bigger picture that we continue to ignore at our peril: the major source of conflict in the Middle East is now coming from Iran, which continues to perpetuate the problems of insurrection in Iraq, Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and Hamas in Israel.
We need to give our troops the chance to secure Iraq so we can move onward to the next phase in the Global War on Terror, and not allow our decisions to be governed by pollsters and potential election results. Playing politics with our national security is bad enough; we should never play politics with American lives.
Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, is the ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and serves on the House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.