The Iraq war is the most important issue I will be facing as a U.S. Senator. When we send our sons and daughters to fight for our country, it is incumbent upon us to insure that the fight is worth the cost in their lives. It is incumbent upon us to insure that we provide them with the best leadership, the best equipment, and the best support that we have available.
America has always been held out to be a "shining city on a hill." We should always strive to be the example for the rest of the world to see. In the case of this war, leading by example is not just something we should strive for because we are America, but it is a major and essential component to winning the Global War on Terror. We won the Cold War by providing a better society, not by fighting on a battlefield.
In the case of Iraq we have not lived up to our ideals or our history.
Our leadership in the Pentagon, both civilian and military, did an amazing job in the initial part of the war, the run to Baghdad. The speed of the fight, the low number of casualties, both military and Iraqi civilian, the low number of troops required - all of this is unparalleled in the history of the human race. And for this Secretary Rumsfeld, General Franks, and all who serve under them deserve credit for a job very well done.
But the leadership after that initial run has been poor at best. The Army and Marine Corps have been pushed beyond all possible limits in the job they have been given during the last several years. The work they have been able to accomplish, the work performed at the brigade level by the boots on the ground, is incredible. It is a testament to the professionalism of the military and the strength and idealism of the individual troops.
However, there are limits to what can be accomplished with poor leadership, inadequate manpower, and limited resources. The present approach in Iraq will not succeed. It has been tried, with minor changes, for over three years and by every measure things keep getting worse.
This is the first major war that the United States has been in where we have not replaced people in the top military leadership positions. Lincoln replaced his Secretary of War, fired general after general until he found Ulysses Grant to win the Civil War, and was ruthless in finding the best leaders for the troops. Not good, not great, but the best. And he did not worry about hurt feelings or bad publicity as the war was more important than that.
FDR brought in Republicans as Secretaries of War and of the Navy. Immediately after Pearl Harbor, Admiral Stark was retired. Numerous generals, admirals, etc were retired or assigned a desk to replace them with the best candidate. General Marshall kept assigning tasks, and watching how each officer performed his tasks, found one soldier that he kept promoting based on merit. When General Eisenhower was first commanding the allied forces in Europe, his permanent rank was still Colonel.
In this war there has not been a single instance of leadership, military or civilian, that has been replaced for not getting the job done. And yet, we have shown no progress in Iraq over the same period of time it took to win WWII.
At the end of WWII we had every right to occupy both Germany and Japan. We invaded Iraq not because they attacked us, but because there was concern about their WMD research. Those WMDs did not exist and Saddam Hussein and his ruling party have been permanently deposed. We have no grounds to occupy Iraq against the will of its people. I am not willing to send our troops to fight and die to impose our will upon a people who have not attacked us.
We now face a very disturbing possibility in Iraq: while it only takes one to start a fight, it takes all to make the peace. While the Kurds do appear to understand this, large parts of both the Sunni and Shia may very well prefer fighting to compromise.
If we leave Iraq immediately without a well-thought-out plan for the withdrawal, the Iraq civil war will almost certainly become a lot more violent. However, if we merely "stay the course" we are not ending the civil war, we are just restraining its level of violence.
I am not willing to have our troops spend years to keep a constant civil war in Iraq manageable. If they are determined to fight, we cannot stop them short of turning Iraq into an American controlled police state.
The second disturbing issue is that opinion polls in Iraq now show that the majority of Iraqis want us to leave. If that is true, then we are no longer helping the Iraqis, we are occupying them. There is no way around this. If they want us to leave, then we choose either to become an occupying power, or we leave.
Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In the case of Iraq. I will not support continuing to do the same thing because I know we will continue to suffer both more dead and horrendous financial cost, to no avail.
I support continuing in Iraq if the following steps are taken: First, that there is a new approach, one that is substantially different from what we are doing now and has a reasonable chance of success. Second, that the administration ruthlessly fire or reassign those that are not the very best leaders we can find for each position. This clearly includes Secretary Rumsfeld and General Abizaid. Third, that the Iraqi government either passes a bill requesting that we stay, or holds a referendum on this question.
I want to succeed in Iraq. I want to succeed so that the sacrifice of our troops in Iraq has not been in vain. I want to succeed because the example of a functioning democracy in the Middle East would be a powerful example in that part of the world. I want to succeed so that the Iraqis can leave a safe and peaceful life.
But if we do not make the changes that are essential to success, I can not support the war in Iraq. I am unwilling to ask our men and women to give up their lives when our leadership is giving them no chance of success. And in Iraq, I think it is quite possible that enough of the Shia and Sunni are determined to fight, that they are going to have their civil war no matter what we do.
If we have no chance of success, then our only alternative is to plan for an orderly and efficient withdrawal of our troops. I do not support an immediate evacuation without a plan. Our lack of post-invasion planning wreaked havoc on both Iraqi civilians and our troops. I cannot support repeating that mistake and condemning innocent Iraqi families to chaos. Any withdrawal must be conducted under an orderly plan that seeks to minimize loss of life and provide places of refuge.
We need to remember that, we must win the Global War on Terror. Iraq is only one battle in that war and like New York in the Revolutionary War, Charleston in the Civil War, and Rabul and Truk in WWII, we can choose not to fight battles that aren't worth their cost and instead put our efforts into winning the war.