Just what does "withdrawing" from Iraq mean?

November 27, 2005  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Weblog

Everybody's talking about it, but nobody in public at least seems to realize how exquisite a maneuver drawing down U.S forces in Iraq is unless you just want to cut and run and let the country collapse as Pennsylvania Dem. John Murtha does. It isn't a simple mathematical formula of being able to withdraw X number of Americans as soon as Y number of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) reach a certain fighting ability.

The most important complicating factor is that the ISF are almost entirely light infantry. They have little armor or artillery, no close air support, virtually no air reconaissance, a couple of dozen small boats for a navy, and not even the proper bureaucracy to make sure men are supplied or paid. Without all of these, they have absolutely no hope of prevailing.

Some of the assets can continue to be operated from Kuwait or offshore, such as fighter/bomber support. But even air support from slower, shorter-range helicopter gunships, the awesome AC-130 fixed-wing gunships, and A-10 "Warthogs" must be based in-country. Why Iraqis are not being trained with and given these weapons is a good question, one they are asking, and the answer seems to be that if a civil war breaks out we'd rather they have access to nothing bigger than a RPG or mortar. Be that as it may, until they have this equipment and are proficient with it, we'll have to provide on-site support. This is one reason setting timetables is as dumb as the Bush Administration and military strategists say. A timetable for what?

That said, a modest draw-down of the right units in the short term and a more substantial one in the longer term could make a lot of sense. With few exceptions, the enemy wages war not with the rifle but the improvised bomb. Fewer Americans mean fewer American targets. It could also help deflate terrorist claims that America plans to be a permanent occupying force. Iraqi leaders are also claiming the U.S. is holding them back from fighting the sort of war necessary to defeat savage terrorists, according to a Sunday Washington Post story. This echoes the only complaint I heard from Marines and soldiers when I was in Iraq, that we were trying to win with a "kindler, gentler military."

But a complete pullout should no more be considered than was withdrawing from South Korea in 1953 or Germany in 1945. Nor will the world, especially the Islamist enemy, be oblivious that the country that sacrificed 58,000 lives over nine years in Vietnam couldn't stomach much more than 2,000 deaths and three years fighting in Iraq. Further, the chief "insurgent" is a Jordanian and about 10% of the enemy hail from outside countries. Whatever the merits of invading Iraq, it is now the focal point of the war on terror. It is neither just nor reasonable to expect the Iraqis to carry the burden of this fight alone.