by Gary North
Most Americans, 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 nothing.
This hard-core 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.
Whoever is 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.
THE COMING RETREAT
The ground 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.
Any competent 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.
As William 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 not.
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 vapors.
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?"
Declaring a 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."
THIS 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 the retreat.
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.
The Weimar 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.
Americans accepted 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 in 2012.
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 basis.
This is good news for Rupert Murdoch. Fox News will still have a post-war audience.
January 7, 2006
Copyright © 2006 LewRockwell.com