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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Only one way forward on Iraq: more troops

    Matt Stonecolumnist
    Matt Stone
    columnist

    Iraq ain’t no picnic. And it ain’t a walk in the park either. But the idea – propagated by almost all Democrats and a sprinkling of Republicans – that withdrawing America’s troops from Iraq will solve our problems there is destructively short-sighted.

    At a candidates’ forum for the District 8 congressional race held at the UA on Tuesday evening, Iraq received the earliest and most passionate attention. One Democratic candidate, Bill Johnson, advocated the withdrawal of any and all deployed troops around the world – from Germany, South Korea, Japan and so on. And most Republican candidates, while carefully avoiding the name George Bush, stuck to playbook, stay-the-course rhetoric.

    But there was one breath of fresh air when it came to Iraq – and it came from underdog Republican Frank Antenori, a 38-year-old Army Special Forces veteran of three wars, including Desert Storm and the invasion of Afghanistan. Antenori wasn’t afraid to say it straight: L. Paul Bremer, the former American proconsul in Iraq, was “”an idiot,”” a bureaucrat doing a job the military should have had all along.

    “”Stability in Iraq can only be served by an increase in the number of boots on the ground.””

    Antenori rightly pointed out that General Douglas MacArthur, a military man if there ever was one, administered Japan for a full seven years following World War II before a national government was formed. Stability was the key; representative government could come later.

    The Bush administration has refused to learn from history. Not enough troops, too many convoluted rules of engagement, an inability to foresee the insurgency – the charges pile high against the Bush White House. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ought to resign for these grave and lethal errors. But moreover, Antenori argues that the Bush administration was too quick to form a sovereign Iraqi government, especially one that can barely function in an environment of chaos and fear.

    For all the errors then, what is the solution now? Cut and run? Stay the course?

    To pull out now, despite the political mood in America, would serve no one – not American interests in the region and certainly not Iraqis, whose society would descend into complete chaos. The Iranians would fill the Iraqi political vacuum, instability would spill over into the territory of our regional allies (especially oil-producing Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) and a security vacuum would allow terrorist organizations to find a new home, engendering further instability.

    To stay the course would imply doing the things we’ve been doing for the past three years with barely any success – an equally unpalatable option.

    Stability is critical, and stability can only be served by an increase in the number of boots on the ground. Sen. John McCain, a potential Republican challenger for the presidency, has repeatedly called for additional troops in Iraq. America ought to do the job it should have completed three years ago: stabilize Iraq and allow the domestic economy to flourish. That can only occur with additional military presence.

    In District 8, unfortunately, all four leading candidates either recommend withdrawing American troops from Iraq or don’t mention anything at all. Patty Weiss and Gabrielle Giffords, the two Democratic front-runners, are eager to cut and run. The Web sites of Randy Graf and Steve Huffman, the leading Republican candidates, don’t mention Iraq at all.

    This kind of political groupthink is appalling. To cut and run in Iraq would be akin to America’s ignominious withdrawal from Somalia in 1993, a country that remained anarchic for 13 years and now has an unfriendly Islamist government patrolling the streets of Mogadishu.

    In these pages, I have previously argued that the invasion of Iraq was wrong and, strategically speaking, not in America’s national interest. Those views don’t change. But a complete withdrawal, as many opportunistic congressional candidates are advocating, is a policy that looks no further than the next couple years. Our problems in the Middle East will be much more long-term, and you can be sure that they will be far more severe with an unstable Iraq rather than a functioning one.

    Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, told President Bush in the run-up to the 2003 invasion, “”You break it, you buy it.””

    We’ve bought it; let’s not toss it into the rubbish bin too soon.

    Matt Stone is an international studies and economics senior. He can be reached at
    letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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