The problem is that both Iran and Al Qaeda… are invested in not just an American withdrawal, but a humiliating one at that.
I fear a measurable uptick in violence in Iraq if Obama wins on Tuesday. The uptick will be significant enough to muddy the results of the surge, and the president-elect, rather than respond vigorously, will be tempted to say “I told you so” and thus win the Iraq debate with his Republican critics. The upturn in violence, he will be tempted to argue, only means we need to get out of Iraq even faster.
But that would be a mistake. It would quietly telegraph weakness to our adversaries around the world…The last thing the incoming administration should want is to be seen as retreating in the face of adversity. That would embolden adversaries. [...]
Getting out of Iraq is an art, not a science, and it would require Obama to move halfway to the McCain position the moment he is elected.
Interesting that Kaplan admits only that an uptick in violence would “muddy the results of the surge,” rather than admit the more obvious conclusion, which would be that the surge hasn’t worked.
To a significant extent, the whole debate about “the surge” is a function of American domestic politics. This isn’t to say that security hasn’t improved, or that life isn’t better now in Iraq than it was at the height of the sectarian civil war that the U.S. invasion helped facilitate, or that our troops haven’t performed admirably. It is to say that the idea that “the surge” represents anything more than a tourniquet on President Bush’s failed Iraq policy — let alone that it somehow vindicates or rehabilitates that policy — doesn’t have much resonance in places in the world that aren’t the U.S., much less in Iraq, where the war has transformed the country into something that many Iraqis no longer recognize.
As for this idea of not “telegraphing” weakness, I think having the U.S. military tied down in two wars with our soldiers stop-lossed into multiple tours of duty doesn’t “telegraph weakness to our adversaries around the world” as much as it describes those weaknesses in a handwritten letter delivered to their doors. If we’re supposed to wait to withdraw until such time as our enemies won’t point to that withdrawal as an American defeat, then we’ll be waiting a very, very long time. Read more