By: Brian Sikma
On June 25th Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking member, took to the floor of the United States Senate and spent 45 minutes delivering what some would later call a landmark speech. The focus of Mr. Lugar’s speech was the Iraq War. During his speech Sen. Lugar made several interesting comments that offer great insight into the political calculations that he and fellow senators have made in coming to their conclusion that the War in Iraq is practically lost.
The one point that Sen. Lugar hammered home several times was the need to change course in Iraq. This view is shared by some of his fellow Republican senators and has the majority support of the Senate Democratic caucus. In a key phrase Lugar said: “The prospects that the current ‘surge’ strategy will succeed in a way originally envisioned by the President are very limited within the short time period framed by our own domestic political debate.” What Senator Lugar was saying is that the 2008 presidential election will hinder our efforts to continue to carry out our mission in Iraq. That analysis is true only if America’s leaders and would-be-leaders lack the courage needed to have a frank discussion with the American people about the stakes involved in this war.
Senator Lugar predicted that the surge plan would fail, but he did say that a complete withdrawal of U.S forces from Iraq would not be in the best interest of America. His prejudgement of the plan is ironic since June marked the last month of U.S. troop level increases and July marks the first month of combat operations with the new reinforcements in place. According to the American Enterprise Institute, the new forces on the ground are succeeding exactly as military officials had hoped. Additionally, an official assessment of the success or failure of the surge is not due until September.
Inspite of calling for a new policy in Iraq, Senator Lugar did not propose what he himself thought would be the best course of action. It is very convenient to criticize a plan before it has succeeded, especially when your position has some public support and you are not called upon to present your solution.
Although Sen. Lugar has been lauded as a statesman and foreign policy expert, when we look at his voting record in the Senate a slightly different view emerges. One of Sen. Lugar’s biggest accomplishments was the Nunn-Lugar legislation that allows the Department of Defence to fund former Soviet countries’ destruction of WMDs. Contrast this legislative victory, which has done little to reduce the actual threat of war with WMDs, with Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. SDI put an enormous amount of pressure on the Soviets by forcing them to either upgrade their technology or risk seeing all of the nuclear ICBM arsenal neutralized by a complex defense system. As is quite well known, the USSR collapsed for a variety of reasons, among them was their inability to maintain an economy that could sustain a Soviet competitor to SDI.
Sen. Richard Lugar voted against funding the Strategic Defense Initiative in 1991. Although the Soviet threat at that time had been reduced, it was still substantial enough to merit the continuation of the program. Today, the work of the Strategic Defense Initiative has led to what is America’s first line of defense should a rogue state such as Iran or North Korea lob a nuclear tipped missile at our homeland.
Another piece of legislation that has had a profound impact on our national security was the funding of the B-2 bomber. This aircraft, and other defense systems that utilize similar technology, has given the United States an unparalleled edge in the ability to gain access to a target and successfully take that target out.
Senator Lugar voted repeatedly against funding for the B-2 bomber.
This record is not unique to Sen. Lugar. Several of the loudest voices now calling for a different direction in Iraq have consistently voted against important national security measures. When these individuals collectively begin to call for a new direction, we must be slow in granting them the status of an expert.
Perhaps the single most disturbing trend in these calls for a new direction in Iraq has been the deafening silence of any call for victory. Over and over again words similar to Sen. Lugar’s statement “Unless we recalibrate our strategy in Iraq to fit our domestic political conditions and the broader needs of U.S. national security, we risk foreign policy failures that could greatly diminish our influence in the region and the world” are echoed without a single call for victory.
While it is true that our policies in Iraq have contained serious flaws, it should be very evident that a failure to achieve victory will lead to a geopolitical situation where maniacal dictators underestimate the scope of a U.S. response to any irresponsible action on their part. A failure to achieve victory would result in Iraq overrun with dozens of little Saddams, each intent on setting up his own dictatorship. A failure to achieve victory will embolden Islamofascist terrorists to strike at U.S. targets both here at home and around the globe. A failure to achieve victory will be a bringing to nought of all that courageous American military personnel have fought, bled and died for. A failure to achieve victory will result in diminished respect for American foreign policy views in every corner of the globe.
None of this should be taken to mean that changes were not needed, and may not possibly still be needed, in the Iraq War. A fundamental point that we must realize is that we have failed to properly prosecute this war beyond the initial regime removal stage. In Operation Iraqi Freedom American military might proved that combining a modest number of personnel with an unbelievably high level of technology can lead to the collapse and total destruction of a nation-state supporter of Islamofacist terrorism. While casualties were sustained, they were at historically low levels and the advanced training and tactics used by U.S. forces involved in traditional military campaigns paid worthy dividends.
After the initial freeing of Iraq more U.S. troops should have been deployed to the country to stabilize the situation and quickly snuff out the native power-grabbing factions and foreign terrorist thugs. In the kind of sweeping and clearing operations that are required in order to defeat the highly flexible terrorist cells, nothing can replace the individual soldier’s ability to patrol and extinguish terrorist thugs wherever they are found. Our former strategy of clearing a village and moving on to the next village allowed terrorists to filter back into the area once U.S. forces moved on. Our current strategy of building relationships with local leaders and clearing and hold areas makes more sense.
Above all, our new strategy is working, despite Sen. Harry Reid’s claim to the contrary. Speaking of criticism about the “surge”, isn’t it a little premature to criticise a military plan that has only been in full effect for a little less than 2 weeks? Perhaps success should be given a chance.
Another area of failing, and an area that is not fully addressed by our surge policy, is our diplomacy in the greater War on Terror. The Iraq War is a subset of the larger Global War on Terror (incidentally, the phrase “Global War on Terror” has been banned by some House Democrats). Too many times we have failed to capitalize in past victories and time after time we have allowed our nation’s diplomats to drop the ball and praise individuals and groups who do not share our aims and our goals.
An example of this happened when the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Francis Riccardione, praised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and said that Mr. Mubarak “was loved in America” and that he if ran for office in America he would have no trouble being elected. Mr. Mubarak presides over a government that is heavily corrupt and consistently tramples the rights of Egyptian minorities. Mr. Riccardione also said that he enjoyed a recent film by an Egyptian Pop-Culture figure best known for his song “I hate Israel.”
If we are going to win the all important battle for hearts and minds in this war, this kind of foolishness will have to stop. It is inexcusable for an official representative of the United States to publicly praise a corrupt president and laud a hate filled musician.
These failures need to be addressed, but the way to solve them is not to abandon the field.
Statesmen are supposed to be leaders. Right now, Republicans and Democrats need to come together and start leading this country forward. Yes, the opinion polls are calling for a draw-down of troop levels. But if America’s leaders will put aside politics and go out and talk to the American people about the failures and successes of the past, and present a clear way to remedy those failures and capitalize on those successes, I think we’ll see polls shifting.
History has handed us an opportunity that has been denied many other countries. Yes, the opportunity is fraught with hardship. The way forward is not easy, but it is right. From Valley Forge to Iwo Jima Americans have consistently fought for victory. Now is the time for us to summon from deep with ourselves the courage for victory.
Now is a good time to remember the words of Sir Winston Churchill, the leader of one of our Allies, “Let us therefore braces ourselves to our duty. So bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and it’s commonwealths last for a thousand years, men will still say ‘this, was their finest hour.'”
America’s cause is just and right and good. In these dark hours of conflict and struggle let us remember that our victory will be forged on the anvil courage and perseverance. History has handed us an opportunity that has been denied many other countries. Yes, the opportunity is fraught with hardship. The way forward is not easy, but it is right. From Valley Forge to Iwo Jima Americans have consistently fought for victory. Now is the time for us to summon from deep with ourselves the courage for victory.