The Gergocon Plan

The neocons are nervous about their ill-conceived imperial adventure in Iraq, and if you want proof, read David Gergen's column in this week's U.S. News and World Report.

A factotum for Democrat and Republican presidents alike, and who most recently toiled for Bill Clinton, Gergen writes that our mission in Iraq isn't just "urgent," but "fiercely" urgent.

War fever wanes with every American boy blown to bits or crippled for life, and "we," the neocon quaestor harrumphs, must whip the country up for more of the same.

The Party Line

A few of Gergen’s choice lines:

"[W]e are in a race against time. If we do not restore order and renew hope soon … we will face not only more violence from the Sunni minority but deafening demands from the Shiite majority to leave before our job there is done." But we're making progress, he said. "Just last week, 5.5 million children went back to school – thanks, in part, to the 1,000 schools that U.S. soldiers have been helping to rebuild."

Then this battle cry: "Retreat is not an option. To leave Iraq without finishing the job would be a disaster for American foreign policy," sending a bad message to terrorists. "We have to stick with Iraq until things calm down and we can turn the reins over to a government that is elected, friendly, and will last.

"But we must also be realistic…. Perhaps our current approach will restore order and create jobs a few years from now, but Iraqis won’t wait that long."

You gotta love the imperial "we," which can mean two things: either the Gergocon eggheads from New York and Washington who risk nothing, or the cannon fodder from everywhere else who risk everything.

Why Gergen Is Wrong

Essentially, Gergen pleads for us to ignore the wanton casualties undermining American morale. Just keep sending your sons to die until things "calm down," then everything will be all right.

But the Middle East will never "calm down," at least for the average American fighting man, as long as the United States tilts on, blundering and meddling.

The idea that retreat will encourage more terrorism is valid only if one believes the guerrillas sniping at American troops have hatched some larger strategy to destroy the United States. Preposterous. This is an overstretched version of the argument not to let the bully push you around the schoolyard, except these terrorists aren't "bullies," and Baghdad is no schoolyard. Serious thinkers don't believe this line, and neither should anyone else.

We do learn American troops men are school builders in Iraq, while a teeming horde of a few million illegal aliens besiege schools here. Wonderful.

The Iraqis on "our side" are impatient for our ministrations to heal the country with good reason. The longer it takes and the higher the American death toll, the clearer it becomes that even America’s awesome military cannot destroy local resistance. Eventually that truth will undermine popular support, such as it is, for the very elements we wish would prevail. The longer we stay, the more they resemble lackeys, not allies.

Come Home

The Gergocons are panicked over what might transpire here if Americans don't stop dying in Iraq: The voters dump Bush; the job is left undone. Israel is in trouble. But this was a job better left unstarted, and the sooner "we" learn that, to use Gergenese, the sooner the killing will stop.

Time to come home.

October 11, 2003

Syndicated columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send him mail] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va.

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