including most Republicans, want out of Iraq. But President Bush
is ignoring this. He continues to rally his supporters around the
banner of victory over the Iraqi resistance movement. This, he cannot
deliver. This, his supporters will not experience. But they will
not go away, either. So, for the Republican Party after 2008, these
die-hard Bushites will be electoral poison.
Think of them
as the electoral “take-a-bathists.” The post-Bush Republican Party
will have to contend with these Republican guard bathists. They
will neither forgive nor forget the Republicans who consent to a
withdrawal. As was said of the restored Bourbon kings after Napoleon
went into retirement, they had forgotten nothing and had learned
constituency for Bush will never admit that he got this country
into a war on false pretenses so that he could settle a perceived
family score with Saddam Hussein. He offered a series of pre-war
excuses for invasion that simply were not true. He has offered a
new justification, “creating democracy in the Middle East” which,
if it really did motivate him in 2003, reveals a lack of knowledge
about the Middle East that boggles the imagination.
elected President in 2008 will face an implacable resistance movement,
metaphorically like the implacable resistance movement that American
troops are facing in Iraq. For this hard-core resistance movement
to admit defeat politically would be like some dedicated Islamic
resistance organization to accept defeat by the infidels. The new
President will exchange one resistance movement for another on the
day that he orders his generals to begin the retreat.
forces of the United States military will be pulled out of Iraq
because they will have suffered a defeat. It is not a matter of
if. It is a matter of when.
historian in 2020 will be able to list the reasons for the retreat.
These will include: (1) the escalating violence of the insurgents’
attacks on American ground forces, (2) the inability of the American
military to locate, let alone compel, the leader of a representative
resistance organization to surrender on behalf of all the others,
(3) the inability of the military to protect Iraq’s infrastructure
from attacks by insurgents; (4) the effect on American public opinion
of ever-rising military deaths; (5) defections by former Congressmen
who had supported the war; (6) the departure of George W. Bush from
the office of President.
The sixth reason
will be the definitive one. President Bush is not going to pull
out the troops. That would be seen by the world and his political
opponents as (1) turning tail and running, (2) not staying the course,
(3) getting into something he could not get out of, (4) being beaten
by “a bunch of rag heads,” (5) President Bush as a weak-kneed lackey
of Ariel Sharon who did not have the backbone to fight, once Sharon
was gone, (6) losing the war on terror, (7) having left the pottery
shop as a thief who did not pay for all that broken pottery, (8)
having been a frat boy who did not take his father’s example seriously,
but instead told his commanders to march into Baghdad.
Lind has written again and again, fourth-generation
warfare that the resistance forces are fighting in Iraq cannot be
defeated by means of the occupation forces of conventional third-generation
warfare troops. To end the fighting, there has to be a political
settlement that is acceptable to the resistance forces.
There is no
national political alliance in Iraq that will be able to cobble
together a settlement allowing the American troops to remain in
Iraq. The Kurds might accept this; the Shi’ites and Sunnis will
If Iraq breaks
apart into three countries, the Kurds might invite the Americans
to stay, but since the Kurds are hated on all sides, there will
be the problem of physical access to Kurdistaq. Besides, what would
be the point? Alienating Turkey? Alienating the entire Middle East?
Giving the followers of Osama bin Laden (you remember him) additional
evidence of the evil intentions of the infidel Crusaders, as well
as “the treachery of the Kurds” (Book III, Chapter 87).
I think it
is safe to forecast that the President who replaces Bush will pull
the troops out. But he will need a plausible excuse. Because, if
he offers no plausible excuse, he will be accused of (1) turning
tail and running, (2) losing the war on terrorism; (3) being beaten
by “a bunch of ragheads,” (4) not having the intestinal fortitude
of President Bush, who is a real man. Should Mrs. Clinton be elected,
substitute this one: not having the backbone of a real woman like
Maggie Thatcher, who never wobbled, i.e., suffering from political
The most obvious
reason for leaving Iraq will be that the government of Iraq tells
the new President to remove the occupying troops. This assumes that
the government of Iraq will wait until mid-January, 2009, to tell
a President to do this. If it tells President Bush to get the troops
out before he leaves office, then his excuse for not getting out
“for the sake of true democracy in Iraq and victory over the
terrorists” will be hanging over the new President’s head. “President
Bush ignored this short-sighted demand. Why are you capitulating?”
victory and leaving will be a non-starter. It would be assessed
accurately as nothing more than an update of the Vietnam exit
strategy recommended to President Johnson by Vermont’s Senator George
Aiken. Yet the alternative will be some variation of the last helicopter
out of Saigon.
The issue that
really bothers tens of millions of Bush’s supporters is this: the
supposed headgear of the Iraqis. His supporters perceive correctly
that America, the only remaining superpower, is being beaten militarily
by “a bunch of ragheads.” By implication, so are they. At this away
game that will decide the international championship in the Oil
Bowl our team is going to be beaten in overtime. This is because
there is no time clock for this game.
The next President
will come up with some excuse, lame or otherwise, to justify our
retreat. Of this, I have no doubt. It will not be the real reason,
namely, that we were beaten by “a bunch of ragheads.”
WILL NOT BE YOUR FATHER’S RETREAT
There was never
a visible, well-organized pro-Vietnam war grassroots political movement.
There was also no Fox News. Johnson got us into the war. He effectively
resigned in disgrace, scared off by Gene McCarthy, of all people.
Nixon kept us in the war. He, too, resigned in disgrace. Gerald
Ford, who had not received a single Electoral College vote, presided
over the pull-out in 1975. He did not alienate his grassroots constituency,
for he had none. He had never campaigned nationally on a pro-war
or anti-war platform. He had never campaigned nationally at all.
He was the perfect President for overseeing a military retreat.
The public was tired of the war, so it never asked Ford to justify
That was then.
This is now. President Bush has defended this war as a badge of
honor: unofficially his badge, but officially the nation’s. Tens
of millions of voters re-elected him on this basis. So, the coming
retreat will be seen by these die-hard Iraq war proponents as a
badge of dishonor, unless the new President can come up with an
excuse that is perceived by them as honorable. I cannot imagine
what this excuse will be. I doubt that there is one.
government in 1919 was forced to sign the Versailles peace treaty
imposed on Germany by the victors. The surrender was offered by
the pre-Weimar government. Yet the Weimar government was blamed
for the defeat by the die-hards, who saw the defeat as a stain on
Germany’s honor. They could not accept the fact that the German
military had been defeated on the battlefield. It must have been
because of traitors in the camp, who had stabbed Germany in the
back. German politics was permanently divided over this issue until
March 24, 1933: the passage of the “Law for Terminating the Suffering
of the German Nation.” On that day, German politics ended. But the
suffering had only just begun.
I think American
politics after 2008 will suffer from a similar division. There will
be no way to placate the millions of Republicans who believed Bush’s
excuses in 2003, refused to renounce them and the occupation when
they turned out to be false, and will regard military disengagement
in Iraq as a badge of national dishonor.
defeat in Vietnam because it was a bi-partisan war that had been
presided over by Commanders-in-Chief from both political parties.
The defeat was therefore a bi-partisan disaster. This will not be
true of the coming defeat in Iraq, unless a Democrat is elected
President, and the war goes on until he is forced out of office
I do not think
this war will last until 2013. So, I think there will be a hard
core of Republican guard bathists inside the Party on a permanent
This is good
news for Rupert Murdoch. Fox News will still have a post-war audience.