Thursday, May 22, 2008


Most arguments these days about Iraq focus on whether or not we should be there, the existence of WMD, national security interests or the cost of the war.  Unfortunately, every one of these arguments missed the real reason we can never abandon the Iraqis. 
When we entered their country, killed their dictator and dismantled their military, we made a promise.  We promised, as a nation, to deliver them from tyranny into a better future.  In the above picture, you can see that both the American soldier and the child cowering behind him are very aware of this promise.
Throughout history this is how people reacted to the news that America was on their side:

No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all! Yes, after Dunkirk; after the fall of France; after the horrible episode of Oran; after the threat of invasion, when, apart from the Air and the Navy, we were an almost unarmed people; after the deadly struggle of the U-boat war -- the first Battle of the Atlantic, gained by a hand's breadth; after seventeen months of lonely fighting and nineteen months of my responsibility in dire stress, we had won the war. England would live; Britain would live; the Commonwealth of Nations and the Empire would live. How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end, no man could tell, nor did I at this moment care. Once again in our long Island history we should emerge, however mauled or mutiliated, safe and victorious. We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end. We might not even have to die as individuals. Hitler's fate was sealed. Mussolini's fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder. All the rest was merely the proper application of overwhelming force. The British Empire, the Soviet Union, and now the United States, bound together with every scrap of their life and strength, were, according to my lights, twice or even thrice the force of their antagonists. No doubt it would take a long time. I expected terrible forfeits in the East; but all this would be merely a passing phase. United we could subdue everybody else in the world. Many disasters, immeasurable cost and tribulation lay ahead, but there was no more doubt about the end.

Silly people -- and there were many, not only in enemy countries -- might discount the force of the United States. Some said they were soft, others that they would never be united. They would fool around at a distance. They would never come to grips. They would never stand blood-letting. Their democracy and system of recurrent elections would paralyze their war effort. They would be just a vague blur on the horizon to friend or foe. Now we should see the weakness of this numerous but remote, wealthy, and talkative people. But I had studied the American Civil War, fought out to the last desperate inch. American blood flowed in my veins. I thought of a remark which Edward Grey had made to me more than thirty years before -- that the United States is like "a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate." Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.

There is a reason Churchill spoke as he did and throughout the bulk of the 20th century the United States never gave any of the world's victims a reason to doubt our resolve when we said we'd help them.  Our honor was unblemished.  Our word was good.
Then, in Vietnam, millions paid the price for our eagerness to remove ourselves from a conflict that tested our resolve.  The damage done to our honor by abandoning millions we'd sworn to protect can not be overstated.  Much of our current trouble is a direct result of that and subsequent dishonorable withdrawals from theaters all over the world.  In Lebanon, Somalia and Iraq we dipped our toes in the pool but decided it was just too cold and went back home.  Because of our timidity, many innocents paid prices we Americans can scarcely imagine. 
Now many voices in America speak of the high cost in blood and treasure, the lack of real American strategic interests*,  the "lofty" ideals of cultural relativism and urge us to abandon yet another group of people dependent on us for their future.  I say our honor cannot survive such an action.  Whatever cost we must pay in blood and treasure will be a small one compared to the cost of further tarnishing our already battered honor.  Without us, Iraq will devolve into desperate anarchy, make no mistake.  Without the sacrifice of thousands of young Americans, millions more will die or be enslaved.
We can no more abandon the Iraqi people than the soldier above could step away from the child he is protecting.  It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak.  It is our duty to protect Iraq.
Our honor demands nothing less.

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