[Fleming] Pragmatic, Not Un-patriotic | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Fleming] Pragmatic, Not Un-patriotic

Despite your personal opinions about Cindy Sheehan's political beliefs or motives, she has single-handedly brought into focus the lack of an exit strategy in Iraq. She has done more in the last few weeks than all of the politicians and special-interest groups in Washington to make us painfully aware that we are mired in a conflict similar to Vietnam and Bosnia, where we really have no consensus plan to pull out our valiant military forces in a timely and successful manner.

Previous presidents in the aforementioned past conflicts were as reluctant to set timetables for withdrawal as our current president is. The results were a hasty retreat from one country and a continuing presence, albeit multilateral, in another. Both actions have put a strain on our military and our citizenry, from both financial and emotional standpoints.

In our current conflict, which historically will be called the first pre-emptive occupation of a foreign nation-state since America's inception, we have spent over $189 billion and have lost over 1,800 soldiers. Over 10,000 have been wounded. Over 4,700 Mississippi soldiers are in Iraq, and 37 have come back home in flag-draped coffins. Larry Brown, one of the first casualties in this conflict, is buried in my district, at Autumn Woods Cemetery.

In fairness, despite how we got to this point, Iraq has seen some positive changes. Saddam Hussein, a brutal dictator by all ethical standards, is now in prison for the atrocities he committed. Iraqi citizens braved the elements and suicide bombers to vote for a parliament, and by October 15, a new democratic constitution should be drafted and approved by its citizens.

October 15, 2005—isn't that a target date? Could it be so ironic that the Iraqi government can set a deadline for establishment of a democracy, but the very force that gave them this opportunity can't decide when they should leave?

The United States' involvement in Iraq has dredged up all of the elements for a civil war. In good conscience, the U.S. must stay long enough to effectively train an Iraqi army strong enough to withstand constant insurgent attacks for the next decade. That will take some time, but I cannot agree that it should be a four-year plan.

America should start implementing an exit strategy, based on the ratification of an Iraqi constitution, sufficient suppression of the insurgent element and the comprehensive training and development of an official Iraqi army. There should not be a need for 138,000 U.S. troops to be deployed in Iraq by Christmas 2006.

We can't afford it. In a time where domestic military bases are under consideration to be closed while we are in the middle of a military conflict, it is apparent that the focus of our national defense should be on protecting our borders, not being overextended abroad. The more patriotic act, in my opinion, is to systematically bring the majority of our soldiers back home to defend our neighborhoods, not the impossible task of hunting down every insurgent in the Middle East.

The president feels that the best defense is a good offense, but eventually the best defense is truly defined by how strong their goal line stand is. We do not have an effective homeland security policy. We have a contradictory immigration policy. Our military expenses are in as precarious a position as the former Soviet Union was when they decided to drop out of the nuclear arms race.

These are the factors that we, selfishly, as public policy makers, must consider. Not to mention the fact that war is hell, and precious human lives are being lost with regularity. The president must make an exit strategy a priority at this time. With mounting domestic concerns, like $3-a-gallon gas prices, the decline in the housing market, concerns about inflation, and a health-care infrastructure that is in even more need of repair than the overloaded transportation infrastructure, it is time to allow Iraq to grow as a democratic nation-state on its own. Although we have some patriarchal responsibilities, we cannot meet the expense of being an overprotective parent to this fledgling democracy.

Some will criticize this piece as a "cut and run" argument. Staying in a country two and a half years after proclaiming, "Mission Accomplished," is hardly cutting and running. Next, to address any concerns about the insurgents waiting us out for our withdrawal, look at what is happening now. The insurgents are using our occupation as a recruiting tool. If you take that away, and coupled with the fact they are unwilling to cease and desist until we leave, then you are really buying time for the legitimate Iraqi government to develop a military force to counter any attacks when we leave.

We have to eventually leave Iraq physically. It is not unpatriotic to say that, just pragmatic public policy. After what has been accomplished, we cannot say that any withdrawal is an insult to our men and women in uniform. It is when the end objective is not in sight, and we continue to put them in harm's way, is that any insult can be derived. It is my hope that the president shows the compassionate conservatism he promised in 2000, and the pragmatism all wartime presidents must have, relatively soon.

Previous Comments

ID
70637
Comment

Iíll criticize this piece in being abound with contradictions, but this quote in particular (i.e. î Not to mention the fact that war is hell and precious human lives are being lost with regularityî is but one shining example. You cannot have war both ways, if war is indeed hell, lives will surely be lost. Further, how is it the author has it as a fact that the insurgents will cease and desist if U.S. forces withdraw? Iíll admit as an initial proponent of the war, in hindsight the war was a mistake, but the selfish reasoning or pessimistic rhetoric in which you (i.e. the author) have given in issuing a call for a definitive timetable or to begin withdrawing U.S. forces is anything but pragmatic. The U.S. cannot in ìgood conscienceî simply withdraw from a country of which it choose to launch a preemptive war against because as the author interprets it î we cannot meet the expense of being an overprotective parent to this fledgling democracyî ñ interesting to say the least considering ìweî bestowed this ìfledgling democracyî upon them.

Author
K RHODES
Date
2005-09-01T19:38:23-06:00
ID
70638
Comment

Iíll criticize this piece in being abound with contradictions, but this quote in particular (i.e. î Not to mention the fact that war is hell and precious human lives are being lost with regularityî is but one shining example. You cannot have war both ways, if war is indeed hell, lives will surely be lost. How is that a contradiction? You and Fleming are saying the same thing. If you're going to criticize the piece, you'll want to use something better than that as an example. Now...that said, I think that both Fleming's piece and your response speak to the level of confusion that we ALL have about Iraq and the lack of leadership or reasonable discussion we have nationally on the subject. Should we set a timetable? Should we not? Should we promise to "get the job done?" Should it be incumbent upon our "leadership" tell us what the hell that means? The problem is, with the current White House, nobody gets a say but them -- the rest of us get platitudes. Meanwhile, regardless of whether invading Iraq was a good idea or not, they've screwed up the "follow-through" pretty bad. That's the lack of pragmatism that Fleming is attacking and I think, in that sense, he's right on the money. Not that I yet totally agree with Fleming that pulling out is the answer -- I'm not quite ready to buy that yet, although I see the POV. I think he's on the right track, though, in the sense that it's a discussion that reasonable people in this country should be having.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-09-01T21:43:17-06:00
ID
70639
Comment

I interpreted the authorís statement as meaning that the hell of war and death isnít synonymous. If war isnít synonymous with death, would the author have Cindy Sheehan to accredit with enlightening us all or should I say some as to the lack of an exit strategy and the perils of this war. I will agree that the ìfollow throughî has been royally screwed, but I certainly donít agree that withdrawing is the answer.

Author
K RHODES
Date
2005-09-01T23:16:53-06:00

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