Good news from Iraq is scarce. Over 3,000 Americans have been killed. Iraqi casualties, depending on which number you believe, are either in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands. Progress has been stalled, mistakes have been made, and the purpose of the mission seems unclear. Precipitous withdrawal from Iraq has never seemed more tempting. But to yield to this temptation would be a grave mistake. Leaving Iraq now will not restore order to the country. On the contrary, a premature withdrawal is likely to result in consequences disastrous not only for Iraq and the wider region, but also for the cause of combating Islamic radicalism and the health of the U.S. military.
The success of democracy in Iraq threatens nearby tyrannies and empowers those fighting within them. On the other hand, withdrawal would lead to a collapse of the elected Iraqi government, and all the work done to bring democracy to Iraq would be in vain. In southern Iraq, the “Islamization” process would accelerate and sharia law would most likely be implemented, stripping away individual rights, particularly for women.
As Iran would grow more powerful, the chances of a radical Shiite state being created in Iraq would also increase. Such a state would oppress its own citizens and pose a regional threat. Sectarian violence would spiral out of control, killing millions of Iraqis, both Sunni and Shiites. Many Iraqis would be forced to flee their homes as radical militias would seek to create homogenous regions. Shiite terrorist groups like Hezbollah would likely find safe haven and support.
Abandoning Iraq, therefore, means watching from the sidelines while Iraqis are slaughtered and neighboring states -- including Iran -- divide the spoils.
If such a scenario were to take place, Iran -- the main sponsor of terrorism and a home to numerous al-Qaeda leaders -- would grow in power and become the leader of the region. It would become easier for Iran’s government, which denies the Holocaust and has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel and the United States, to obtain nuclear weapons. The West would also find its options to affect Iran’s behavior increasingly limited. In response to the growth of Iran’s power, countries in the region like Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Gulf states would seek nuclear weapons (in fact, many of these states already indicate that they plan to develop nukes). Already, Iran’s leadership has expressed willingness to share its nuclear technology with other rogue states like Syria and Venezuela.
This nuclear arms race could reach another key battleground in the war against radical Islam: Africa. A nuclear arms race triggered by American withdrawal may force Libya, fearing its nuclear neighbors more than American repercussions, to re-start its nuclear program. Insurgency in North Africa would likely expand, as Iran may increase support to organizations like the GIA in Algeria, furthering the civil war there. The United States would not have the will to stop the genocide in Sudan. The Sudanese government, an ally of Iran (and previously of Saddam Hussein), may find hope in America’s withdrawal and increase their brutal activities in Darfur.
In Latin America, Venezuela’s nuclear cooperation with Iran would continue. The weakness of the United States would further encourage the formation of an anti-American bloc in South America, led by Cuba and Venezuela, that would ally itself with Iran, China and Russia.
Asia may appear far removed from the military theater, but even there the consequences of premature withdrawal may make themselves felt. The perception of American weakness could lead to a struggle for supremacy among rival Asian powers.
With China ascendant, Japan would have no option but to develop nuclear weapons. Two scenarios could then arise: China would dominate the Pacific and America’s status as a superpower would quickly recede; or there would be a region-wide nuclear stalemate involving Burma, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and possibly Taiwan and Australia.
But most of all, withdrawal from Iraq may prove very damaging to the U.S. military, as it would likely lead to the collapse of morale among the troops. Senator John McCain, a former P.O.W. in Vietnam, said it best recently when he noted that “the only thing worse than a stressed military, is a broken and defeated military.” On the policy front, it would probably translate into a reluctance by the public to support a responsible military budget.
The disastrous security situation in Iraq will lead to a terrorist sanctuary that the United States will in due course have to confront. Our uniformed men and women who came home the first time will have to enter again under much harsher and costlier conditions.
In the final analysis, withdrawing from Iraq would not end the war but prolong it. No compassionate American wants to see soldiers away from their families and risking their lives, but short-sighted and emotional calls for withdrawal obscure the stakes. The time is tough, and the president has acknowledged ultimate responsibility for the mistakes we have made in Iraq. But all of these mistakes pale in comparison to the mistake of ceding victory and the future of Iraq to the terrorists we came to know on September 11, 2001.
Ryan Mauro is the author of Death to America: The Unreported Battle of Iraq and founder of WorldThreats.com. He is a geopolitical analyst for Tactical Defense Concepts and for the Northeast Intelligence Network. He can be contacted at TDCAnalyst@aol.com.
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