I don’t typically dwell on the past. For instance, while I still don’t understand how the Vikings could idle the most potent offense in NFL history in it’s 1998 NFC Championship game loss to the mediocre Falcons, I don’t rehash that debate. Anymore. Much.
But I have to admit every time I get into a discussion about the current conduct of the Iraq War, I lapse back into the reasons we never should have gone to war in the first place. Every time. Instead of a debate about 2007, I find myself still wanting to rehash the 2003 debate. You know, the one that never really happened.
But I need to move on. Really. We all do. We need to learn from the mistakes of the 2003 non-debate, and the blunders of the early “win the peace” non-strategy so we don’t repeat those mistakes in the future. But the fact is we’re there, it’s a quagmire and we have to figure out what to do next.
Just as the media did a poor job stimulating a national debate in 2003 about whether to invade, because support for invasion was strong, it is now doing a poor job stimulating a debate in 2007 about whether to immediately evacuate, because support for immediate evacuation is strong. Instead of covering “whether to evacuate,” it is almost exclusively covering “how fast to evacuate.”
That debate about whether to evacuate can’t be skipped. In 2003, it was simplistic and dangerous to say “Saddam is bad, so invading Saddam is automatically good.” Likewise in 2007, it is simplistic and dangerous to say “The war is bad, so immediate evacuation is automatically good.”
As much as I oppose this war and would love to bring our troops home, Colin Powell’s words haunt me: “You break it, you buy it.”
America needs to have an honest debate whether most Iraqis will be better or worse off with us occupying their country. We need a debate about whether the region will be economically and politically more stable with us in or out of Iraq. We need a debate about whether terrorism will get better or worse if we evacuate abruptly. We need a debate about whether any of this is likely to change if we give the Generals more time. And we need a debate about the opportunity cost of diverting so much time and money away from other critical national security needs to address this one.
The news media and Congress need to prove they are more than simply a windsock of contemporary “evacuate now” public sentiment, and stimulate a more thoughtful national debate in 2007 than it did in 2003.