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Long-term effort in Iraq can#8217;t be justified

There has never been an American war without opposition. So let’s recognize that there are differing and valid perspectives that make sense to many of us with different outcomes in mind.

In the last 50 years of American policy Republicans have been more associated with national defense than Democrats.

They have been perceived as more attuned to protecting the nation from those who might threaten our nation.

That perception is changing. In a recent Pew research poll people stated they trusted Democrats more on Iraq than Republicans.

The Democrats want to end the war and bring our troops home, a policy the public agrees with, with 68 percent wanting our troops home in two years or less (CBS poll last month). Republicans want to continue to “Stay the Course.”

This week General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker reported to the Senate and the House of Representatives on the progress of the war.

The report seemed to be generally positive from the two, with indications that progress was occurring and could be named. But if you listened closely, behind the progress are several lingering concerns.

The Iraqi army and police forces continue to be unable to defend the nation. In Basra they deserted, refused to fight, fought but were poorly trained and led, and in some numbers actually joined the other side. The other side by the way, repeatedly called “special groups” by the two, were the militias of Shiite Al Sadr.

This means that we have in southern Iraq and Baghdad Iraqis fighting Iraqis … and if we were not hearing the new term “special groups” we would be calling it civil war between Iraqis.

It may now be true that Al Sadr, and his religious supporters are more powerful in Iraq than the elected government. And it may be that they realize this. This would mean that stability in Iraq is far from secure, and that would be why our troops must remain without further reductions … to hold the civil war at bay.

Politically, Iraq has made some small progress, but not enough to allow anyone to say they are securing their own future.

All of this leads us to the conclusion Petraeus seemed unwilling to make: If we are to desire to leave Iraq ever with a stable, U.S. friendly government, we could be in Iraq, with troops at risk, for 50 years. There is literally, no end in sight.

Sen. McCain believes this, believes that the war will go on and we should stay. The argument is that if we do not stay we broke Iraq and left it to fall into chaos.

The alternative argument is that there is no guarantee that in 50 years there will be Iraqi stability, and self-determination, for stability, must occur without an occupation.

The emergence of Iraqi leadership may be someone friendly to the U.S. or not.

There may be more violence, or less violence, or continued violence. No matter how long we stay there are no promises for any form of American victory. We do not even know what the conditions for victory might look like now.

These are the stark alternatives we face and the Petraeus report stands silent on the fundamental question: Will we stay for 50 years if that is required?

The answer to the question is no. The American people will not permit that choice.

Our next president must end the war, period. For Petraeus to measure progress against a 50 year effort does not help the nation. What can Patraeus do for us in the next two years? That is the question.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Ironton Tribune.