Nobody likes it when American allies are left holding the bag. Those on the right complain that we abandon friendly regimes out of weakness of will, whereas those on the left use our exit to blame the U.S. for ever getting in. For these reasons abandonment feels like an order of execution, or at least of life imprisonment. South Vietnam was not the first little state to be swallowed up in our wake. The one criticism Americans lob at Churchill concerns his infamous complicity in Stalin’s carve-up of Eastern Europe, sealed with a hand-lettered map on a napkin. And now we wonder if Iraq is next.
Freedom of thought is a good thing, like freedom of movement on the battlefield — especially when wiggling through the tight spots of foreign affairs. For too long in Iraq, “stay the course” has meant not just strategic but tactical obduracy. But now, the humble returns on our massive investment have led some commentators to advocate, instead of an inst-o-matic exit from Iraq, an audible known as the “Kurdish Option.” By redeploying to Kurdistan, the case is made, we can salvage four worthy goals:
1. Our troops will depart a lethal, intractable civil war between Sunni and Shia.
2. The U.S. will retain the force necessary to hunt and kill al Qaeda in Iraq from a secure forward base.
3. The defense of Kurdistan will help ensure that democracy and the rule of law flourish for at least one ventricle in the heart of the Middle East; and
4. Americans will prove to the Kurds, to the world, and to ourselves that we don’t leave close friends in the lurch when the going gets tough for us.
Of these, Goal 4 is paradoxically the most important — though it has the least to do with hardheaded military and geopolitical strategy. But judging the other three goals, on the likelihood of their success after a Kurdish redeployment, suggests that the best way to fail the Kurds might actually be to send them bulk of our armed forces.
START AT THE TOP of the list. First, the attractions are obvious for a policy of disentanglement. Iraq’s rival factions are caught in a conflict only politics can solve, without recourse to all-out war. But whether the warring parties will halt magically at the Kurdish border is doubtful. Nothing is more important, whether winning or losing a civil war, than an ally of convenience with a good army, and the Kurds’ Pesh Merga is certainly that. The strategic city of Mosul is a frontier jewel, an irresistible draw sure to worry, and entice, the Kurds accordingly. The more important Kurdistan becomes — and the greater the percentage of U.S. troops there, the more that it does — the more at the mercy of their neighbors are the Kurds.
This must have slim appeal. The Turks have already pressured the U.S. to decapitate the PKK, widely recognized as a terrorist organization comprised of unbending Kurdish guerrillas. Our undersecretary of defense for policy has confessed we intend to oblige our NATO ally. This situation can only worsen when Sunni Iraqis begin casting about for allies against Iranian-backed Shia militias.
Pulling back to Kurdistan will get us out of the thick of it only to inspire the thick of it to follow us there.
Second, the hope that our concentrated forces can launch effective attacks against al Qaeda from Kurdistan fades on close inspection. Prior to that mission, we would very likely face a gauntlet, because we’d have to:
1. Put down Kurdish terrorists, a move guaranteed to irritate both local government and rank and file.
2. Massage Turkish expectations as their army awaits along the border; and
3. Fend off incursions and overtures from Sunni and Shia alike, none too pleased with our decision to favor neither side as they bleed themselves dry.
If, that is, we do manage to stay somehow neutral. In reality we will follow Iran’s lead and support one or both sides, betting the way campaign contributors do. Our hands, in short, will be full, precisely because we withdrew to Kurdistan. This is very little gain for a very lot of trouble.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online