Peace at a price: A liberal's confession

Oct. 6, 2005, midnight | By Avi Wolfman-Arent | 16 years, 7 months ago

Her story is heartbreaking, but Cindy Sheehan's proposal is driven by emotion, not logic

Dubbed the leader of the new anti-war movement, Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a marine killed in Iraq last April, had attracted a swarm of media to her roadside ditch in Crawford, Texas, and now to her new nationwide bus tour. But by calling for an immediate end to the U.S. military presence in Iraq, Sheehan has offered peace advocates a rallying cry and little else. Hers is a simple solution to a complicated problem, and this liberal has no qualms with admitting that Sheehan's judgment is fatally flawed.

Diplomacy in decay

Instead of removing Americans from harm's way, Sheehan's strategy puts us at risk. Although the immediate result, the ensured safety of approximately 140,000 American soldiers, is a comforting thought, the aftermath of such an action could be devastating for America's international relations and national

While many Middle Eastern nations are at odds with our current occupation of Iraq, our already-strained relationships with these countries would worsen if Iraq turns into a destabilizing force in the region. A premature departure from Iraq could cause a civil war that would increase general discord in the area. To risk this sort of instability would be to compromise the U.S.'s international reputation and, as a result, our nation's well-being.

We have seen Iraq become a breeding ground for terrorism as a result of the U.S. invasion. We cannot reverse this reality by pulling out. Rather, Iraq would become even more susceptible to terrorist recruiting if a strong government is not in place to fight it. A complete withdrawal would undoubtedly leave America more vulnerable to terrorism than before the invasion.

The risk we run

The current situation in Iraq is fragile. On Sept. 14, al-Qaeda executed a coordinated attack on Baghdad, killing 160 in a series of suicide explosions and executions. Unfortunately, daily death in Iraq isn't even front-page news anymore. In addition to their battle against a thriving insurgency in the cities, U.S. forces are still struggling to control all of Iraq's outer regions, most notably the Anbar province.

With coalition forces still fighting for control, it would be irresponsible to hand over all security duties to the Iraqi national army, which has been criticized as under-staffed and under-trained. For example, in response to Iraqi president Jalal Talabani's claim that U.S. troops could safely complete a pullout in two years, an anonymous senior Army official said in a Sept. 13 article in "The Washington Post" that setting a time table for withdrawal is unrealistic.

In addition to leaving the Iraqi government defenseless, a pullout would raise already heightened tensions between various ethnic groups. In a pessimistic, but realistic, prediction printed on Sept. 6 in "The Post," Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware), a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, commented on Iraq's domestic conflicts. "Sectarian violence might escalate into a full-blown civil war, drawing in Syria, Iran and Turkey... Iraqi Sunnis could forge stronger alliances with foreign jihadists, turning a swath of Iraq into a pre-Sept. 11 Afghanistan for a new generation of terrorists," he wrote. His forecast is certainly gloomy, but with so much internal strife, it is abundantly clear that an immediate pullout wouldn't make Iraqi citizens any safer.

Essentially, Sheehan's proposal places a higher value on the lives of the approximately 140,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq than on those of the 26 million people who live there. While it is horrible that more mothers like Sheehan will lose their sons and daughters, we must also consider the legions of Iraqi parents who will experience the same anguish if we leave Iraq in flames.

Peace with a plan

Still, Cindy Sheehan does deserve some credit. She has the gall to stand up to the world's most powerful man and demand answers, and she has given a human face to the suffering and agony this war has caused. But in the end, her argument lacks substance. Over the past two-and-a-half years, we've made a mess in Iraq, and now it's time to clean it up. Our energies need to be focused on giving Iraq the ability to rule and defend itself. If we leave before both are accomplished, we will create problems, both for Iraq and for ourselves.

It is easy to lament our past decisions and second-guess our motives. It is much harder to create a feasible and effective solution that limits the loss of life in Iraq while creating an independent and self-sustaining state. Cindy Sheehan presents us with the former. We need the latter.

I was there in January 2003 when liberals rallied on the National Mall, and I heard the warnings of the carnage Americans would face in Iraq. I threw up my hands and hollered in vain when the President told us our army would need to kill in the name of peace and freedom. But now, with the fate of a foreign nation in our control, we cannot afford to support a reaction on the basis of regret. We cannot live with even more blood on our hands.

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Avi Wolfman-Arent. Avi Wolfman-Arent has been called many things: super genius, mega hunk and an all around cool guy; but through the praise he has remained down-to-earth and humble. At a muscular five feet nine inches he may seem intimidating when striding down Blair Boulevard, but when … More »

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