Genii Weblog

One American who will back a "policy of retreat"

Wed 21 Feb 2007, 11:28 AM

by Ben Langhinrichs
Dick Cheney was speaking in Tokyo today and said he wants the United States to finish its mission in Iraq and "return with honor".  I wish it were possible, but I think that moment is long gone, as we never should have started this war, which was evident long before we did, at least to me.  But the part that rankles me enough to blog about it is his assertion that Americans would not back a "policy of retreat".  It rankles me enough to stand up and say, "Yes, I do."  I may not like it, and for a while I thought we might have to stay just to fix the incredible mess we have made there, but I don't think we are doing anything of the kind.  I think we are now fighting this war, and will go on fighting it for another couple of years, just so Dick Cheney and George Bush don't have to stop it themselves.  Cowardly and dishonorable is what I call that.  I personally don't think Americans will back a policy of letting more Americans and Iraqis die so that Dick Cheney doesn't get a Loss in the Win/Loss column of his personal ego, and can instead pin it on whoever inherits this mess.

Do I think it will be pretty when we pull out, as we inevitably eventually will?  No, I think it will be a bloodbath, but I think it will be no matter when we leave, and I think our being there will only prolong the madness, especially if Iran moves closer to fighting a proxy war through Iraq, and if we get sucked into that conflict.  Sad as it may be, I think the best we can do now is pull out and let the locals sort it out among themselves.  I wouldn't be surprised if we wind up with a fundamentalist, anti-American government, but I think that is even more inevitable if we stay.

So, as an American citizen, a voter and a tax payer, I say I back a policy of retreat.  It makes me sad, but that is how I feel.

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What has been said:

560.1. American
(02/21/2007 09:22 AM)

Lovely. A policy of defeat is exactly what our enemies want America to adopt. I often think political affiliations blur this topic, which isn't the war in Iraq, but the actual survival of American ideals and our way of life. Take the politics out of the equation for a moment and look at the simple art of war. Accepting defeat, even in the slightest example, not only empowers the enemy but enables them. The one thing you never want to give your enemy is the idea that they are winning, hence the development of counter intelligence (a whole other posting another time).

It's rather simple when you take the politics and emotion out of the picture. But when you don't, you get frustration over why we went to war in the first place, how we are fighting the war, the motives behind it, etc. All of these are really irrelevant -- seriously -- to the end goal, which is the success of America. I personally believe that if we leave now, sure the blood bath will occur, but that's ancillary. Looking at the big picture, accepting a policy of defeat will be the beginning of the end of America as we know it.

Just my two cents worth as a tax paying America, who actually served in our armed forces.

560.2. Roberto Boccadoro
(02/21/2007 09:34 AM)


your post should be published on the newspapers here. In Italy there are too many anti-american people who think that the average US guy is a cowboy always ready to draw fast and shoot. To see that there are different opinions would be a shock for them, probably, and it would definitely help in defeating this stupid stereotype. The problem is that now your leaders match pretty much the "cowboy" idea.... but this does not mean all the Americans are like them.

Really appreaciate your writing and, fwiw, I support you.


560.3. Ben Langhinrichs
(02/21/2007 09:39 AM)

@"American" - I hate to mention it, but the United States has actually lost wars before... and still seems to be around to talk about it. "Failure is not an option" sounds good, but knowing when to cut your losses is taught in every military school as well. I didn't say I'd accept a policy of defeat, but rather a policy of retreat. There is a rather major difference which politics does not explain.

And I hate to be snippy, but being unwilling to sign your name to a post of this sort somewhat defeats the "stand tall" attitiude. We can agree to disagree, but I respect more those who will use their names proudly. You have served in our armed forces, for which I salute you, so I think you can stand behind what you say. I certainly won't respect you less, no matter who you are.

RoB - Like all countries, we have many different opinions, as you can see even by the posts above.

560.4. Mike Robinson
(02/21/2007 12:44 PM)

Ben, I'm impressed that you've blogged openly about this. Sometimes it's best to keep business and politics apart as politics is such a polarizing topic. I also glanced at another blog topic and noticed you have two boys, and I have to think a lot of your thinking factors in their future (heck all thinking for a parent touches upon how does this effect my kids...). It's easy to say "stay the course"- when your kids are not in harms way. So I tend to agree with you that something has to change. *However* a full scale pullout will also make matters worse. I do tend to agree with you that a major reduction is on the horizon and probably will be the next administration to do it. The hornets nest is stirred, and only time will tell what the long term effect will be.

@Roberto- how about you send this article to your local paper. It does irk me some considering all the good the US does throughout the world that we get this black eye stereotype.

Anyway, good post.


560.5. Charles Robinson
(02/21/2007 01:31 PM)

Ben, in the last sentence of your original post you do say that you back a policy of defeat. Do you mean you back both? I'm not sure what a policy of defeat means, other than to admit we lost and just leave. The only difference I see between that and retreat is that when you retreat you don't admit defeat. Are the differences only semantic, or is there more to it than that?

@American - If no one ever questioned anything we'd have a despotic tyranny instead of a democratic republic. My ideals and way of life are under attack by Americans, not Iraqis, so your chest thumping is particularly offensive.

560.6. Ethann Castell
(21/02/2007 02:23 PM)

Well said Ben.

There is a lot I like about the US and its people and I have some great friends who live in the US. However the US culture seems to maintain some attitudes which appear to be aggravating more and more people around the globe.

I've seen this attitude come through in so many US movies but "Sahara" sticks in my mind as the most blatant. If you remember the movie then the theme is basically that the US can go anywhere in the world, walk into any country, kill however they want, destroy whatever they want and veri importantly, walk out unscathed. A bit like "Team America World Police" come to think of it. Of course because Americans are the "good guys" and whoever is in the way at the time are the "bad guys" then it's all justified. (Note however the the "bad guys" can quickly become "good guys" when it suits.)

There are two things that upset me most.

Firstly, thousands of lives have been needlessly wasted for no discernable reason. Ok there was the WMD which must be hidden very well because they still haven't been found.

Secondly, the US does not seem to realise that attacking countries and killing innocents is going to creating some seriously pissed off orphans, parents and siblings who are possibly going to want revenge.

560.7. Ben Langhinrichs
(02/21/2007 02:27 PM)

Charles - No, I was writing something else and edited it incorrectly. I've changed it now. The difficulty is not in the semantics of "defeat", as we are being defeated if we retreat, it is in the semantics of "policy of defeat". As a country, I have little trouble with our backing away from conflict, but not of feeling that we thereby embrace defeat, which we did after Vietnam. We are retreating from a bad situation that I feel, and there is plenty of room for healthy disagreement, is only getting worse due to our involvement. That seems better to me than waiting until we turn around and race for the helicopters, which happened in Vietnam partly because we didn't know when to say when.

560.8. Kezza
(21/02/2007 19:43)


well said. There is a similar sentiment in Australia, but our Prime Minster John Howard is sticking firm with his buddies Bush & Blair. Intersting on the brekky news here this morning that Britain is pulling some troops out.

Our Foreign Affairs Minster was trying to spin it as a reduction NOT a withdrawal.

I am old enough to have been drafted for Vietnam, and missed out beacuse of a new government and change of policy. Thank God!

There are too many similarities.

560.9. Charles Robinson
(02/22/2007 07:49 AM)

Ben, thanks for the clarification. Now I understand and I agree with you. For me we have far bigger problems to address than stroking politicians' egos.

560.10. American
(02/23/2007 12:35 PM)

@Ben - I am quite aware of our previous losses during war time. Are you honestly trying to sell me on the "we've survived before, therefore we can survive again" mantra? Knowing when to cut your losses is indeed taught in military school - do you really think we are at the point in this conflict that we need to be thinking "retreat"? The losses to date in this conflict are quite minimal in comparison to all previous wars. Personally I think the idea of cut-n-run is premature at this point. It's interesting that you read a "standing tall" attitude in that previous posting. Do you think by not including my name, that it somehow lessens my message? Having people know my name doesn't enhance my message and frankly anonymity is one of our greatest freedoms. True - we'll have to agree to disagree on this topic, but that's what makes the US so great - the ability to do so.

@Charles - I don't remember mentioning anything about not debating the issue. I think debate is quite healthy. Despotic tyranny? Really, you don't have to sell me on the benefits of our great democratic republic - I fought for them. You comment about your way of life being under attack by Americans and not Iraqis sounds to me like you are questioning the motives for the US going to war in Iraq. If you reread my original posting, I specifically mentioned to take the emotions and politics out the discussion (primarily because those could be debated until we are both blue in the face). BTW there was not chest thumping going on in that prior posting. Sorry you were offended by my posting, perhaps thicker skin is in order.

560.11. Ian Randall
(02/25/2007 11:09 PM)

Let me premise by comments by saying that I am in full support of all the armed forces from the international community who are on active service in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are doing their duty and a fantastic job under terrible conditions.

However, I for one DO question the motives, legality and the morality of the US, United Kingdom, Australia and other Nations for invading Iraq and Afghanistan.

As an Australian, I don't recall participating in a vote that sanctioned the US, UK, Australian or other Countries as the international equivalent of Texas Rangers flying around the world like avenging vigilantes, and invading Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Bush Administration supported by Tony Blair (UK) and John Howard (Australia) lied to us all about these so called “Weapons of Mass Destruction” and the imminent threat to world peace posed by these two countries. What a load of hogwash. It was both a lie and total distortion of the intelligence information available at the time.

These two invasions are illegal and their continued occupation of these countries is an international disgrace. It is also a political disaster and has made the world less safe not the other way around as promised. Every day many brave young men and women lose their lives needlessly, because these politicians cannot admit they screwed up.

Worse, the US has soiled it’s international reputation as an upholder of truth and democracy and of the rule of law.

If we want to mend the gap between the West and Muslim Countries around the world we should first own up and admin that we were wrong. Having done that we can then plan for a scheduled withdrawal of all international forces. Perhaps an international force made up of troops from Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Indonesia and various Arab Emirates could act as a buffer force until domestic security forces can take over in these two countries.

560.12. Axel Janssen
(28.02.2007 03:22)

I am an european (german to be more precise). Especially after the Kosovo conflict, I became highly sceptical about the european way of managing stuff: Calling americans imperalist and on the same time rely on them in case of a government freaking out (Serbia). American soldiers died while doing european dirt work.

But maybe you simply overestimate your powers abroad. After countless invasions, help programs, etc. the USA don't even control the neighbouring caribean region (Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela). Your soldiers and politicians simply get sucked into local conflicts, which they have no way to control. A lot of serious history books has been written about this.

The USA did do great things in rescuing Europe from barbarism 2 times and defeating stalinism. But for this to work, it needs at least some empathy from the locals of the target region towards values like democracy and freedom. Else your soldiers and politicians get sucked in some negative process like in Iraq, which (as we know now) doesn't improve things. And sometimes even some of your politicians and soldiers happily adapting some of the questionable values and practices of the enemy-of-your-enemy- allies.