- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2005

There is a terrific campaign under way in Congress, particularly among Democrats, who demand President Bush announce his “exit strategy” for the war in Iraq.

In fact, some Democrats insist any support for the war in Iraq hangs on whether President Bush has an “exit strategy” and is prepared to announce it right now. That set me thinking and researching American history to see if any other war president has been pressured to announce an “exit strategy.”

Imagine if a member of the Continental Congress named Barnaby Boxer who on the day George Washington and his harried troops crossed the Delaware had demanded Washington announce his “exit strategy.” Imagine a member of the Continental Congress declaring that this business about independence from Britain was a cover-up for lack of an “exit strategy” and insisting George Washington’s war appropriations be withheld unless he immediately informed the Continental Congress of his “exit strategy.”

A bitter debate would, of course, have ensued. By the time it was over, Gen. Charles Cornwallis would have made public his “exit strategy”: surrender of the British Army at Yorktown Oct. 17, 1781.

I suppose one might say that during the early years of the Civil War demands were made on President Lincoln for his “exit strategy,” notably by Clement Vallandigham, leader of the Copperheads in the Civil War. He argued the war was fought not to save the Union but to liberate the slaves and enslave the whites. Lincoln then demonstrated his “exit strategy” vis-a-vis Vallandigham, who was banished to the Confederacy.

It was quite clear to everybody, especially after the Gettysburg Address, that Lincoln’s “exit strategy” was to save the Union and defeat the Confederacy.

I have searched high and low without success for somebody in or out of Congress who ever demanded of President Woodrow Wilson that he make public his “exit strategy” during the Great War. In World War II, the Allies demanded Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender. I can find nowhere anybody who asked Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill for his “exit strategy.”

In the Korean War era, nobody had an “exit strategy.” Presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower galvanized the U.S. voters in 1952 with the announcement that if he were elected he would go to Korea, a sort of entry strategy. The obvious “exit strategy” was to keep South Korea independent.

And as for Vietnam, we had an “exit strategy” alright, the strategy of panic when Ho Chi Minh, as we now know, had lost on the battlefield but won on the streets of America.

Barbara Boxer and her allies are really playing word games with their call for an “exit strategy.” What does she expect Mr. Bush to have as an “exit strategy” in Iraq? Isn’t it obvious now that we have seen genuine democratic voting by a brave populace in a country that was once a rotten, corrupt dictatorship?

How about applying the exit strategy question to Afghanistan? Mr. Bush got out when Afghanistan was able to run its own affairs despite terrorist threats and terrorist activity.

To demand an “exit strategy” from Mr. bush is another way of saying to hell with trying to turn Iraq into a democracy. To say that is to say let the Middle East continue to be a terrorist haven, let the Middle East continue to be a theocratic stronghold, let the Middle East remain a protectorate for Islamic terrorists posing as liberators.

My personal feeling is that California voters ought to start thinking of an exit strategy for Mrs. Boxer, a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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