ON KNOWING WHEN TO WALK AWAY FROM THE TABLE
Little confession here: while not gung-ho, I supported the Iraq effort in 2003, and a good ways into 2004. Why? I thought we had something tangible to gain by establishing a US presence in a country as strategically-located as Iraq. Remove Saddam, exert influence over Iran & Saudi Arabia & Syria to reel in their own terror networks, demonstrate some power against those who had or would harm us. And, very much as David Letterman explained to Bill O'Reilly last month, I was angry, I was scared, I wanted someone, somewhere, to know we were fighting back.
But that was 5 years ago. I'm no longer as angry or scared, and the mission, whether noble or not, has been an utter failure. It needs to end.
I never believed the WMD story, and I had no thoughts about "establishing Democracy" or any of the other mission-creep adventures that have . . . crept into US strategy. And I certainly didn't want hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, a demolished nation, thousands of dead Americans, billions, if not trillions, spent on a senseless war. And, despite all that, I have to admit I was naive. Very much so.
Naive to believe the Administration would make its best effort. Naive to believe the Rumsfeld Doctrine of limited war. Naive to believe we could occupy only the perimeter of a foreign country. Naive to believe our leadership would attempt only such a borderlands invasion.
But I came to my senses a while back, and not only stopped believing what I'd thought in 2003, but began to speak out against it. It doesn't ease my mind completely, regarding what I said and thought nearly 5 years ago, but I can certainly embrace my willingness to change my mind, to react to changed circumstances. But the fact that I entered the pre-war run-up with my skepticism & cynicism intact, yet still opted to support the invasion brings me no shortage of self-disappointment.
To trundle out the standard analogy (standard, yes, but so apt it's foolish to leave it in the shed), I know folks who by 1969 were vehement anti-war activists, appalled at the senseless slaughter in Indochina, committed to do all they could to stop it. And yet, many-if-not-most of them were adamant war-supporters before Tet, before the general draft, before the Bombing of Cambodia, before Kent State, before the death toll crossed 30, then 40, then 50,000 men. And good for them that they came around. Good for the soldiers and sailors and marines. Good for the country. Good for Vietnam.
Yet some people didn't come around. Most Americans supported the war in 1966. Many in 1967. Some in 1968. Less than half by 1969. Even fewer by 1970. By 1973, and certainly 1975 it got harder and harder to find unabashed supporters of the US war in Vietnam. And today? Where are they? Who'll come out right now and say, "The War in Vietnam was a noble effort, a fight worth sacrificing for, a battle we never should have quit without victory"? Anyone?
Yet, on the verge of 2007, the 5th calendar year during which the US will have been at war in Iraq, why are so many Americans still arguing that the war is worth continuing, that the sacrfices still have meaning, that Iraq can be saved? That we can actually Win? Who are these people, and when will they wake up?
And will they be able to stand up in mixed company in 2025, and admit without shame that in 2007 they still hadn't altered their views one bit?