Safer Today?

By Jack Shanahan, VADM, USN (Ret.)

November 29, 2005

Originally published in the Daytona Beach News-Journal
Oct 21, 2005 [Re-printed with permission of the author]

Some years ago a U.S. Navy squadron of destroyers was moving south in formation off the coast of southern California. If memory serves me, it was off Point Conception where the flagship ran aground and the other destroyers followed, resulting in a colossal maritime stupidity. Why? All ships "stayed the course". Sound familiar? In a speech before the National Endowment for Democracy on Thursday 6 October, the President said, "This war will require more sacrifice, more time and more resolve."

The Bush Administration is resolved to stay the course in Iraq when the situation in that land of chaos demands a "change of course" before our own ship of state flounders on the rocks of a failed policy.

Our government structure is based on a system of checks and balances. It is way past time for the legislative branch of the government to put a check on the Administration's flawed Iraqi policy of staying the course. Lieutenant General Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.), of the Washington, D.C. office of the Hudson Institute and others have called for the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq as rapidly as possible. He puts it this way. "We have failed". "The issue is how high a price we're going to payŠLess by getting out sooner, or more, by getting out later". Since the Bush Administration refuses to recognize that its policy of military occupation of Iraq is broken and can't be fixed, it goes on its merry way by featuring it (just listen to the President's words). The Congress must step in with a strong dose of reality or many of its members will be looking for new jobs come November 2006.

In its reality check the Congress should consider the following:

  • The war in Iraq has diverted our efforts to contain Islamic extremists on a worldwide basis. Thus the U.S. is not as safe today as it was before our invasion of Iraq.

  • The readiness of the U.S. military to carry out its core mission---"to insure the survival of our country as a free and independent nation with our institutions intact and our people secure", is being seriously degraded by continued military operations in Iraq. Thus the U.S. is not as safe today as it was before our invasion of Iraq.

  • Where it hadn't previously existed, we have created a recruiting/training ground in Iraq for would be terrorists and religious extremists. Thus the U.S. is not as safe today as it was before we invaded Iraq.

  • In February, The Congressional Budget Office estimated that our occupation of Iraq could cost an additional $458 billion between 2005-2015. That money would be borrowed money just as we are currently doing to finance our occupation of Iraq and fund hurricane recovery projects. The fiscal results of these activities will have a serious negative impact on the U.S. economy, as the public debt soars beyond what is reasonable. Thus the U.S. will not be as economically safe today as it was before we invaded Iraq.

  • A significant majority of the American public (voters) now believes the invasion of Iraq was a mistake and they want change.

  • The Administration is unwilling to recognize that the path to our withdrawal from Iraq is political not military. Not only should the Bush Administration be urged to open a dialogue with Baathist and insurgent elements in Iraq but, we should insist that the current Iraqi government take the lead. You don't win guerrilla wars by simply killing the guerrillas and insurgents, and announcing daily body count, as they live off a sympathetic local economy and this is the support base that must be neutralized. This goal requires an Iraqi political solution, one that can't be achieved so long as the U.S. maintains a significant military presence. The Iraqis still haven't agreed on a constitution. So it is time to teach them what "hard love" means and cut them loose with the caveat that the U.S. and the international community will stand behind a financial commitment to assist the Iraqi people in rebuilding the country.

The Bush Administration's resolve to stay the course in Iraq is just plain wrong, the rocks and shoals are obvious to all but the diehard neo-conservatives within the Administration. Congress must resolve to take the helm, alter course by beginning the withdrawal of the U.S. military from Iraq now. Iraq is not worth the loss of one more young American fighting man or woman.

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