Tom West: Presidential candidates both on wrong track in Iraq

I've been traveling off and on for the past few weeks to Oregon and Colorado for both business and pleasure. It's interesting to get away for a few days because each community has different concerns.

I've been traveling off and on for the past few weeks to Oregon and Colorado for both business and pleasure. It's interesting to get away for a few days because each community has different concerns.

In Denver last week, for example, an important document in the Columbine school shooting investigation turned up missing. The authorities were being crucified and talk radio was full of figurative fingerpointing.

In Colorado Springs, home to Fort Carson, NORAD and the Air Force Academy, the war in Iraq remains at center stage. The Colorado Springs Gazette listed the war dead from the previous week -- about 10 Americans, most of whom were killed in action. Most media mentioned the 1,000 death "milestone" when U.S. forces passed it a couple of weeks ago, but not every paper gives a paragraph to the war dead unless they happen to be from the immediate area.

Still, I came away from the two trips thinking to myself, if we could just put away the partisanship for a few moments (I know, I know, I'm dreaming), Americans need to gain some perspective on the Iraqi War if we are ever going to find a solution that is good for us.

Most people want to go bipolar on the war -- either you are for it or against it, but as I see it, it's possible to take at least seven different positions on Iraq.


First, of course, is the "bring the troops home now" crowd.

Second, and closely related to the first, is the "another Vietnam" group.

Third is the "send in the United Nations" contingent.

Fourth is the "let's finish up in Afghanistan first" faction.

Fifth are the "stay the course" faithful.

Sixth are the "We blew it in Fallujah" critics.

And seventh is the "We don't have enough troops" brigade.

Let's look at each in a little more depth.


The crowd that wants to bring home the troops immediately is putting their feelings ahead of their brains. If we pull our troops out now, Iraq will sink into civil war obviously. Many Americans don't care about that, but the latest polls still show about a 15 percent majority in favor of seeing the war in Iraq through to a democracy. If we pull out now, the most important consequence will be the resulting growth in power and prestige of Islamic radicalism. That can't be good for the United States and Western civilization.

The Vietnam crowd remains stuck in the '60s. Try as they might, the retrofit doesn't work. The United States blasted Vietnam with everything it had for close to a dozen years, and to date, there has not been one attack by Vietnamese on American soil. One can't say the same about Islamic extremists. The danger to the U.S. is not by a nation but by a religious sect run amok.

Getting the United Nations to send troops now is for dreamers only. The theory is that some other nation will willingly send troops when the U.S. has already sent theirs. The U.N. will continue to respond to Iraq just like it has in Sudan -- with lots of hand-wringing and solemn declarations of dismay. Nothing more.

The Afghanistan crowd has a point. The point is that because weapons of mass destruction have not been found in Iraq, the war there is illegitimate and should cease. Let's go back to Afghanistan, the theory goes, and fight the real culprits of 9/11 -- al Qaeda. First, the fight against al Qaeda is unlike any war fought between nations. Al Qaeda is not a nation, it's a religious sect. It's membership crosses national boundaries like the clouds in the sky. And those who pretend that the insurgents in Iraq are -- like the Vietnamese -- simply defending their nation, can't explain why so many foreigners are involved in the insurgency. To fight al Qaeda only in Afghanistan is to fail to recognize the worldwide threat for what it is.

The "stay the course" faithful are supporting democracy, a worthy goal, but unfortunately ignoring the performance by the administration. If the administration is not getting the job done with its current efforts, most leaders would try something different. "Stay the course" plays into the hands of the Vietnam crowd that sees another quagmire developing.

The Fallujah fighters think if the administration had not blinked in May, much of the resistance could have been eliminated right then. However, the White House was afraid of the casualty count, so it allowed that count to be spread out over the next several months even as the insurgents began to gain new recruits in the wake of our show of weakness. Once a decision is made to make war, the worst thing one side can do is to pull its punches.

As for those who want to send in more troops, one wonders where they will come from. A draft? This nation is too disunited for that. It will take at least one and probably two more 9/11-type attacks before a draft is reinstituted. More troops would help, but only if used in the right way. Flinching when victory is at hand is not one of those ways.

As it affects the presidential election, we have one candidate who wants to stay on the present course, and one who seems to be leaning toward pulling out now. Neither seems to be on a course that will be good for the United States in the long run.


There are many ways to look at this war. I wish one of the two would put politics aside and choose a different alternative (I know, I know, I'm dreaming), one that would be beneficial to the United States beyond Nov. 2.

Tom West is the editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 723-1207 or by e-mail at .

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