This time around, I felt that Bush sounded especially cogent and connected (sounded — I didn’t say he is). At least, it seemed like he definitely did have a clue as to what was going on when he mentioned the various sects of Islam. Then, he said this:
“The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat.”
Apparently, Bush is a uniter, but instead of uniting us, he’s uniting our enemies. Whoever heard of “unite and conquer”?
A disaggregation of the terrorist threat allows us to stop thinking in Bush’s Manichaean terms when it comes to withdrawing from Iraq. Perhaps these terrorists will grow in size, but maybe they’ll be too busy killing each other instead of us. (While this sounds good in an abstract sense, it is not necessarily morally just because of all the people caught in the middle.)
The costs of defeat are great, surely. But I must ask: What are the costs of “victory”?
It has already cost us lives, limbs, and billions of dollars. Even if the surge stabilizes Baghdad, I believe that Iraq cannot survive as a democracy if we do not provide the necessary economic aid. This, I suspect, will require a civilian component, which always seemed to be lacking in Bush’s rhetoric. Democracy requires nation-building. The military is not made for nation-building.
To “win” as Bush has defined it, requires many more lives, limbs, and dollars. Tax-payer money that could fund more space science or stay in our pockets, but instead it goes to Iraq to fund their economy. Hell, do we even have enough money in the first place? Democratization in Iraq also requires time. It requires a long-term commitment of at least 30 years. Let’s put it this way: It requires empire.
I understand the opinion of many on the right who believe that leaving Iraq would be a disaster. But we must also consider the costs of victory. Could it bankrupt us? (Dollar-wise and morally.) What are its long-term effects on our military? Will it cost us in the propaganda war being waged for hearts and minds around the Middle East? (I especially pose this question to the right who believe that we must take the metaphoric gloves off in order to pacify Iraq.) We would do well to consider the lesson of King Pyrrhus, who defeated the Romans, but at so great a cost that the result was ruin. I’m not saying that pacifying Iraq would be a Pyrrhic victory. At this point, I’m only asking that we seriously consider it.