U.S. Pull-Out from Iraq in 2005

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It’s coming.
That’s the opinion of columnist
Robert Novak

I heard
Novak give a tribute at Phyllis Schlafly’s 80th birthday on September
18. Phyllis looks pretty much the same as she did 25 years ago.
She sounds the same. She looks about my age. OK, maybe a bit younger.
It was unnerving.

Novak made
it clear in his speech
that he expects Bush to win, and that he favors this outcome.
He also said that he has learned from talking with Kerry’s staffers
that they are convinced that Hillary will get the nomination in
2008 if Kerry loses, which they think will lead to a Republican
victory, maybe for several Presidential elections.

That’s too
far in the future for me to worry about. But Novak is as savvy
a political columnist as any I read. So, when he, as a partisan
Republican, writes about imminent Republican policies, I pay attention.


That was
Senator George Aiken’s advice to President Johnson regarding Vietnam
in 1967. It was ignored. His phrase has remained part of the country’s

we withdrew. There was no pretense of victory. We suffered a clean-cut
defeat. A bunch of men in black pajamas beat us.

Desert Storm
in 1991 was supposed to have been the American military’s liberation
from the shadow of a defeat in Vietnam. It wasn’t. It was a war
not fought to completion — no occupation of the defeated
country. It was fought in the open desert, where modern high-tech
military weaponry works: no place for enemy troops to hide. That
was a strategic fluke. No enemy will ever fight that kind of war
again against a modern military force. Instead, the enemy will
be plural. They will fight the kind of war that Iraq’s militants
are fighting today: a war with no head of state to surrender.

This is
Fourth Generation warfare. William
Lind has written a lot about this.
It is the warfare of the
future, the hit-and-run warfare of Fallujah.

recent article in The Guardian
cited military strategists
on the deterioration of the position of the military in Iraq.
One of the critics is Marine General Joseph Hoare, who is the
former Chief of the US Central Command.

The idea that this is going to go the way these guys planned is
ludicrous. There are no good options. We’re conducting a campaign
as though it were being conducted in Iowa, no sense of the realities
on the ground. It’s so unrealistic for anyone who knows that part
of the world. The priorities are just all wrong.

Urban warfare
has replaced Vietnam’s jungle warfare, but the strategic question
is the same. How does a conventional military force with very
long supply lines defeat a nationalist guerilla force that can
recruit from a growing number of alienated locals, who shelter
the guerrillas? That was the question the Russians faced in Afghanistan
in the 1980s. Their military defeat cost them their empire. They
are still facing this strategic problem in Chechnya. They have
come up with no solution, despite far shorter supply lines.

We finally
pulled out of Vietnam. The public would tolerate the war no longer.
The guerrillas wore down the public’s will to pursue victory.
Novak says that plans are now being made at the highest level
to pull out of Iraq next year.

Inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is
strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This
determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi
democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying:
Ready or not, here we go.

Could he
be correct? He has looked at the three alternatives, and he says
the third is most likely.

Bush or Kerry is elected, the president or president-elect will
have to sit down immediately with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The military will tell the election winner there are insufficient
U.S. forces in Iraq to wage effective war. That leaves three
realistic options: Increase overall U.S. military strength to
reinforce Iraq, stay with the present strength to continue the
war, or get out.

sources in the administration are confident Bush’s decision
will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation
of his national security team and would be the recommendation
of second-term officials.

The same
three options will face Kerry if he is elected, Novak says. He
thinks Kerry will also choose the third option.

The reality of hard decisions ahead is obscured by blather on
both sides in a presidential campaign. Six weeks before the election,
Bush cannot be expected to admit even the possibility of a quick
withdrawal. Sen. John Kerry’s political aides, still languishing
in fantastic speculation about European troops to the rescue,
do not even ponder a quick exit. But Kerry supporters with foreign
policy experience speculate that if elected, their candidate would
take the same escape route.

The political
problem facing either man in 2005 will be the same. Both have
said that it was right to invade Iraq. Each has said that his
plan will work to bring democracy to Iraq. Bush has said that
a democratic Iraq will serve as a beacon for other Islamic states
in the region. He told the U.N., “We must help the reformers of
the Middle East as they work for freedom and strive to build a
community of peaceful, democratic nations.” This assertion is
looking less plausible every day. The opposite looks true: Iraq’s
lack of democracy will stand as a beacon for Islamic radicals
throughout the region.

Novak doesn’t
mention it, but there is a major piece of evidence pointing to
withdrawal next year: the absence of Donald Rumsfeld from TV screens
ever since the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. He was on screen constantly
in March, 2003. This year, he has been invisible. He, above all
of the Administration’s officials, is most closely associated
with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He is almost as absent
today as Baghdad Bob, and for the same reason. Like Baghdad Bob,
he is facing early retirement.

Even after
our troops leave, the costs of the invasion will remain. Iraq
will become a foreign aid sinkhole.

Getting out now would not end expensive U.S. reconstruction of
Iraq, and certainly would not stop the fighting.

But a problem
will remain, foreign aid or no foreign aid.

Without U.S. troops, the civil war cited as the worst-case outcome
by the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate would be
a reality. It would then take a resolute president to stand aside
while Iraqis battle it out.

Is Bush
this resolute? Novak thinks not. Would Kerry be this resolute?
Kerry has called for additional troops as a military solution
— though not lately. So has the Democrats’ ranking member
of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden. This
would require the re-institution of the draft. But it is politically
inconceivable that Kerry would re-institute the draft. This would
go against his entire political career, not to mention his constituency.
The Republicans would fight him in Congress as a partisan defensive
operation. So would enough Democrats to block the bill.

If a President
tries to re-instate the draft, soccer moms will go into political

the government has re-established the draft for the volunteer
forces. Volunteers who signed up for a fixed term are not being
allowed to quit. This sends a clear message to would-be volunteers:
“Don’t sign on the dotted line. The contract will not be honored.”
A contract that can be unilaterally violated is not a contract.
It’s a surrender of one’s liberty. Recruiting has failed to provide
sufficient troops. This is why the Army is redeploying troops
from South Korea and elsewhere.

Kerry has
said nothing specific about what he plans to do militarily in
2005. He is a mush-mouth, unlike Howard Dean, who called for withdrawal.
He is looking more and more like Wendell Wilkie, the Republican
mush-mouth who ran against Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 on a platform
of internationalism.

The Kerry
campaign, realizing that its only hope is to attack Bush for his
Iraq policy, is not equipped to make sober evaluations of Iraq.
When I asked a Kerry political aide what his candidate would do
in Iraq, he could do no better than repeat the old saw that help
is on the way from European troops. Kerry’s foreign policy advisers
know there will be no release from that quarter.


The cost
of the Iraq war keeps rising. Attacks on Iraq’s oil pipelines
take place almost daily. The American-appointed government in
Iraq does not possess national legitimacy. Guerilla attacks on
our troops and Iraqi civilians are continual. Car bombings —
the cultural innovation of the Irish Republican Army in 1972 —
take place daily. Terrorism is growing.

There was
a once-popular argument that by taking the war to Iraq, the President
was keeping terrorists away from our shores. The
President invoked it again in his speech to the United Nations
on September 21.
“Coalition forces now serving in Iraq are
confronting the terrorists and foreign fighters so peaceful nations
around the world would never have to face them within our own
borders.” But what happens if the United States retreats, visibly
beaten? No one is talking about this. Yet from the beginning,
this was the crucial strategic question.

On September
17, 2001, my analysis of the projected invasion of Afghanistan
was published on Lew Rockwell’s site. I saw the invasion as a
strategic mistake because no nation has ever conquered Afghanistan.
At best, an occupying force can control Kabul, as the Soviet Union
did, but it cannot control the countryside, where warlords are
in control. Today, the warlords are once again in control in the
countryside, now that the Taliban is out of power. They make their
money from the drug trade. The planting of opium poppies is now
at pre-Taliban levels. The Taliban had forced drastic reductions
in opium production. This cut the income of farmers, so the U.S.
government paid $43 million to the Taliban government in May,
2001. That brought foreign aid
to Afghanistan to $124 million for the year.

I wrote
that our invasion would subsidize bin Laden’s recruiting program.

A terrorist
group needs recruits. A terrorist movement needs recruits. If
your strategy of terror involves the extensive use of suicide
missions, you need very dedicated recruits.

To get
such recruits, you need the following: (1) a cause that is greater
than any individual; (2) a sense of destiny associated with
your cause; (3) the perception that a sacrificial act on behalf
of your cause is never wasted or futile; (4) a vision of victory;
(5) publicly visible events that demonstrate the power of your

From what
little I have read about Osama bin Laden, his movement possesses
all five factors. He is especially skilled with respect to point
five. He understands symbolism, and he understands Western media.
This man is a formidable enemy of Western civilization.

I believe
that Americans have completely misunderstood the events of 9-11.
The attack was not a direct assault on the United States primarily
for the sake of making us fearful. It was part of a recruiting

I have not
changed my mind. We read today that recruits are flowing into
al Qaeda, despite the arrest of bin Laden’s top subordinates.
Al Qaeda is now recruiting non-Arabs,
making the infiltration of the United States easier. This became
clear with Pakistan’s capture of Mohammed Naeem Khan and his computer
in July. The media picked up this story, but they did not headline
it. It has faded. In 2001, I wrote:

Acts of
terrorism are part of a larger strategy. A government cannot
stop all individual acts of terrorism. A government’s task is
to thwart the larger strategy. It can do this two ways: provide
widespread justice, thereby strengthening the resiliency and
legitimacy of the society, or else adopt ruthless counter-terrorism.
Anything in between will fail, once a society becomes a target
of terrorists. Think of Nicholas II. Think of Louis XVI.

The acts
of 9-11 were symbolic attacks on American finance capital (the
towers) and American military might (the Pentagon). The terrorists
knew better than to imagine that a nation can be undermined
by terror alone, especially terror that hits only sporadically.
They were making a statement: America’s government cannot protect
its people or itself from men who are willing to die. This statement
was primarily for the folks back home, not for us. The message
is this: if you are willing to die, you can help undermine the
Great Satan’s seeming indestructibility. I am convinced that
this attack was part of a recruiting program.

The problem
for any military invader of Afghanistan is that the troops cannot
control the territory outside major cities. This is doubly true
in this war, because most of the troops have been sent to Iraq,
but I did not forecast this in 2001.

Bin Laden
got exactly what every strategic terrorist wants. He got the
enemy government to escalate a war which the terrorists inherently
control, for they pick the battlefields, the weapons, and the
escape routes. The terrorists establish the terms of engagement.
The initiative lies with the terrorists. The government reacts.

We will
be victorious, Congressmen assured us, one by one, on C-Span,
in their speeches on September 14. Well, politicians also tell
us there will be meaningful tax reform. There hasn’t been for
twenty years. They tell us Social Security is solvent. It isn’t.
They tell us there are trust funds with money in them. There
aren’t. Now they tell us that bin Laden is as good as dead.
He isn’t.

Our military
defeated the Taliban, but in doing so, it turned the country back
over to the warlords. Bin Laden escaped, or seemed to. If he is
dead, his name is still a force to be reckoned with. He remains
alive in the minds of the recruits.

Our politicians
threw down a verbal gauntlet. It was a very risky gauntlet. Its
success depends on the ability of U.S. forces to maintain control
on the ground.

I have
never heard such rhetoric as I heard on C-Span regarding the
President’s authorization to use all resources to strike against
terrorism. In one-minute segments, Congressmen and Congresswomen
kept saying that we will impose our power to show the terrorists
that we are strong. The problem is, if we don’t get them, this
will expose us as weak. Bluster is a liability. “Speak softly
and carry a big stick” is more than a slogan; it is a strategy
for keeping enemies off balance. Now we have thrown down the
verbal gauntlet. We have said that we will get them. If we fail,
it will make the terrorists even bolder.

With respect
to bin Laden, our leaders speak loudly and carry a weak reed.
Loud talk will not do us any good. “We are coming after you,
and the fury of hell is coming with us,” one Georgia Congressmen
said on the floor of the House on September 14. He pretended
to direct his remarks to bin Laden. In fact, they were for his
constituents. It would be best to link our cause to a likely
outcome. It would also be wise not to link our fury with hell’s.
To invoke hell as your model when you are challenging a Muslim
terrorist group is not the best way to get your message across
to a Muslim nation that your military strategy requires to provide
a base of operations.

can backfire. If reality fails to conform to rhetoric, the recruits
will grow bolder. Better to speak softly and carry a big stick
than to speak loudly and carry a weak reed.

If bin
Laden did it, then he is recruiting. Even if he didn’t do it,
he is recruiting. He has taken the initiative. This is a classic
terrorist operation. The model goes back at least to the Russian
terrorists of the nineteenth century. We have seen it all before,
or at least historians have. America is reacting predictably.
Except for widespread public prayer, ours has been the classic
response to classic terrorism.

It is
the response which the terrorists work hard to achieve. The
man who understood this best was the non-violent revolutionary,
Saul Alinsky. He provided the slogan that encapsulates the revolutionary’s
strategy: “The action is in the reaction.”

The action
today is in the streets of Iraq’s cities. The initiative is being
taken by the insurgents. What was a reaction — defensive
operations by guerrillas — has become the action. This was
predictable. As I wrote:

The terrorists establish the terms of engagement. The initiative
lies with the terrorists. The government reacts.

We are now
the government. We react. The insurgents have established the
terms of engagement.


Novak believes
that the President will remove our troops from Iraq in 2005. If
he proves to be correct, then we can expect escalating violence
in the region against Western-linked Arab rulers. The Saudi family
will be in a difficult position.

The flow
of oil is what it’s all about in the region — in Afghanistan,
in Iraq, and in the emirates. It’s why we are there. It’s why
we are building 14 permanent
bases in Iraq
. But how permanent are they? They are no more
permanent than the American voters’ will to impose military force
of guerrillas, with no hope of victory.

We have
pulled our forces out of Saudi Arabia, as bin Laden demanded from
the beginning. We are now on the defensive in Afghanistan and
Iraq. This is costing American taxpayers billions of dollars a
month. More to the point, it is costing American lives, day after
day, like the drip, drip, drip of the famous Chinese water torture.
But the liquid is blood.

I think
Novak is right. By the end of 2005, most U.S. troops will be out
of Iraq. But the flow of oil from Iraq will remain at pre-invasion
levels. The insurgents know the soft underbelly of the West: oil.
The pipeline bombings will continue.

The terrorists
will be the winners. They will de-stabilize the entire region.
That was my fear in 2001. It remains my fear today. If we depart,
they will have proved their point: the West is weak. It has no
will to resist. This is the great psychological goal of every
violent resistance movement: to erode the enemy’s will to resist.
Islamic terrorists are worse in this regard. There is religion

If it really
is true that our troops have tied down the terrorists in Iraq,
which so far appears to be the case, what happens after our troops
are brought home?

Nobody is
talking about this. That’s because it’s a Presidential election
year. Politicians do not talk about specific solutions to politically
unsolvable issues in Presidential election years.

Bush, like
Kerry, has now officially placed this nation’s hopes on the United
Nations. He said in his speech, after calling for a new round
of government funding for democracy, which he has promised to
initiate with American taxpayers’ money,

History will honor the high ideals of this organization. The Charter
states them with clarity: to save succeeding generations from
the scourge of war, to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,
to promote social progress and better standards of life and larger

I remain
skeptical. Betting on the UN is like betting on the Italian Army.

days of cheap energy have come to a close. We must adjust to this.

30, 2004

North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money
. Visit http://www.freebooks.com.

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