I sure hope that Robert Novak is wrong about this:
Whether Bush or Kerry is elected, the president or president-elect will have to sit down immediately with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military will tell the election winner there are insufficient U.S. forces in Iraq to wage effective war. That leaves three realistic options: Increase overall U.S. military strength to reinforce Iraq, stay with the present strength to continue the war, or get out.
Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush’s decision will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation of his national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a withdrawal.
Yikes. If Bush (or Kerry for that matter, should he be elected) pulls troops out of Iraq after the election, they will have pretty much destroyed American credibility for decades to come and they will insure that the Islamic radicals will have succeeded with the 9/11 attack. The result will be civil war in Iraq, probably resulting in an Islamic state. The list of potentially disasterous consequences of that could go on all day – an invigoration of Islamic radical factions in Turkey that could lead to a toppling of the only incipient democracy in the Arab world; a possible merger with Iran, Syria, or both; renewed threats against Kuwait and perhaps even Saudi Arabia, and to their oil supplies; certainly a threat to the secular Bahrain and to Israel; and unlike Hussein’s regime, the new Iraqi regime really would be a training ground for al queda terrorists.
An Islamist Iraq would be a far bigger threat to the United States and to its neighbors than Hussein could even dream of being, especially under the sanctions and the no-fly zone. We would have succeeded only in increasing al queda recruiting by a huge factor, destabilizing the entire middle east, and thus making the world a much more dangerous place.
Postscript: I just wrote this in an email and since I liked it better than what I wrote above, I thought I’d just tack it on:
Throughout the buildup to the war, I never believed the marketing campaign with which the war was sold, but I believed there were valid strategic reasons for the war. I believed that the real reason for it was to A) provide a base of operations from which to project our power in a very dangerous region of the world; and B) allow us to rebuild the Iraqi oil fields to insure a steady supply in the, in my opinion, relatively likely event that the House of Saud should fall. The fact that we would also be getting rid of a brutal dictator was also a compelling factor, and a welcome change from decades of American foreign policy that so often involved putting such men IN to power.
At the same time, I found a lot of things quite disturbing about the way the administration went about it. Rumsfeld’s public undressing of General Shinseki for testifying to Congress that the occupation would require 250,000 troops and over $100 billion, when it should have been quite obvious that Shinseki was correct, was a very bad sign that either the administration had no idea what was required to achieve success, or they were willing to lie to Congress to get the votes to do it. In retrospect, I suspect both were true. Yes, they deliberately played down the committment necessary to complete the mission, but they also vastly underestimated what that commitment really would require.
Regardless of all that, a quick pullout now would be the most disasterous possible course to take. It will virtually insure a civil war in Iraq, and that might be the BEST outcome. If the civil war ends with an Islamist state, we will have succeeded only in making the world a far more dangerous place than it was 2 years ago by essentially handing Iraq over from a secular and relatively containable dictatorship to a fanatically theocratic and boundless dictatorship, newly invigorated by their success against us. If this was, as some have suggested, a trial balloon being floated by the administration to see how it plays with the public, it is vital that we shoot it out of the sky with all due haste.