Politics & Policy

Year of The Horse

We can't cut and run from Iraq.

Iraq is not Vietnam. But you would never know that by listening to the Democratic candidates for president.

With the possible exceptions of Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman, the candidates recommend that America abandon Iraq to either the terrorists or the U.N. So while the situation on the ground in Iraq bears no resemblance whatsoever to Vietnam, the Democrats advocate the same approach they did 30 years ago–cut and run. As in Vietnam, this would amount to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. (The major reason North Vietnamese regular army troops were able to roll over the South Vietnamese was that Congress pulled the plug on aid to our ally in its moment of need, one of the most ignoble acts in our history.)

But cutting and running is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place.

Remember the1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut? Remember the hotel bombings in Aden in 1992? Remember Somalia in 1993? In each instance, the U.S. walked away, and the terrorists, especially Osama bin Laden, noticed. In his 1996 “Declaration of War against the Americans,” bin Laden specifically cited these retreats and stated: “You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew. The extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear.”

Bin Laden concluded that the U.S. didn’t have the stomach for a fight. He drew strength from America’s lack of nerve and grew emboldened enough to bomb our African embassies and attack the USS Cole. We responded to neither of those attacks in any significant way, which only further convinced him of our impotence and emboldened him even more.

Our history of not fighting back in the Middle East is why bin Laden believed he could strike us with impunity on September 11. As bin Laden explained on the infamous home video in which he claimed responsibility for the attack, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, naturally they will like the strong horse.” In his eyes, the U.S. was the weak horse that could not only be driven out of the Middle East, but could also be attacked directly and eventually defeated at home.

All that changed with Afghanistan, where the U.S. showed that it had both the power and the will to fight and prevail over the terrorists. Iraq further showed that we were willing to put lots of Americans on the ground, in harm’s way in the heart of the Middle East, to protect our interests. In both instances, the U.S. revealed itself to be the strong horse, a perceived reversal of fortune that has had positive repercussions throughout the region.

To abandon Iraq with our work undone would not only be an affront to the brave men and women who gave the full measure of devotion to liberate that country, but also a huge victory for the terrorists.

In the wake of September 11, as the U.S. began operations in Afghanistan, bin Laden’s deputy, the Egyptian revolutionary Islamist Ayman al Zawahiri, issued the following warning: “O, American people, your government is leading you to a new losing war. U.S. people, your government was defeated in Vietnam and fled scared from Lebanon. It fled from Somalia.” Do Kerry, Clark, Dean, Kucinich, Sharpton, and the rest really want to add Iraq to the list?

It is clear that at least some of the Democratic presidential candidates want this president to fail in Iraq because they think it will help them politically; thus this headline in yesterday’s New York Times: “The Bad News Is Good News for Democrats.” But Bush can only fail if America fails too.

Undermining the president with reckless accusations and mindless partisanship, however, does not strike me as a winning campaign strategy. But with the economy now firmly on the move and the Democrats becoming more desperate by the day, we can look for the attacks from Dean, Kerry, Clark, et al. to get even more irresponsible.

Despite all the problems in Iraq, three scientific polls done in that country show the same thing: The Iraqi people are grateful to America and are optimistic about their future–which means they have nothing in common with the Democratic party.

The Honorable J. D. Hayworth is a Republican congressman from Arizona.

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