The War of the Maybes

As Richard Cohen says “the truth is that no one knows what will happen to Iraq if U.S. troops pull out” — everyone’s just guesstimating: “Maybe the Kurdish region will go its own way, taking its oil with it. Maybe the Shiites in the south will embrace Iranian hegemony — or maybe they will remember they’re not Persians who speak Farsi but Arabs who speak Arabic, and resume the old enmity. Maybe Osama bin Laden will buy a condo in Baghdad. Maybe, maybe, maybe.” And then the thud — “Maybes are not sufficient reason for Americans to continue to die.”

As with Vietnam, the ending is inevitable. We will get out, and the only question that remains is whether we get out with 3,000 dead or 4,000 or 5,000. At some point the American people will not countenance, and Congress will not support, a war that cannot be won. Just how many lives will be wasted in what we all know is a wasted effort is about the only question still left on the table. Realism dictates as few as possible.

Seems right to me. But of course as our soldiers stay in theater for years and keep on killing and dying, wounded and being wounded, they won’t really be dying for maybes. They’ll be dying for honor and dignity. Not the honor and dignity of the US Army and Marine Corps, or of the United States of America and its citizens, but for that of the not-especially honorable or dignified men and women whose poor judgment and crass immorality put the troops there in the first place.

A quotation: “Do you think we could go on forever / When the architects of the war / Are handing out the swords?”