Sunday, November 26, 2006

"Leaving Iraq, Honorably"

Senator Chuck Hagel has an op-ed in the Washington Post that is well worth a read. Here is the op-ed:
Leaving Iraq, Honorably
By Chuck Hagel
Sunday, November 26, 2006; Page B07

There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis -- not the Americans.

Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost. It is part of the ongoing global struggle against instability, brutality, intolerance, extremism and terrorism. There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger made this point last weekend.

The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose.

We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.

It may take many years before there is a cohesive political center in Iraq. America's options on this point have always been limited. There will be a new center of gravity in the Middle East that will include Iraq. That process began over the past few days with the Syrians and Iraqis restoring diplomatic relations after 20 years of having no formal communication.

What does this tell us? It tells us that regional powers will fill regional vacuums, and they will move to work in their own self-interest -- without the United States. This is the most encouraging set of actions for the Middle East in years. The Middle East is more combustible today than ever before, and until we are able to lead a renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, mindless destruction and slaughter will continue in Lebanon, Israel and across the Middle East.

We are a long way from a sustained peaceful resolution to the anarchy in Iraq. But this latest set of events is moving the Middle East in the only direction it can go with any hope of lasting progress and peace. The movement will be imperfect, stuttering and difficult.

America finds itself in a dangerous and isolated position in the world. We are perceived as a nation at war with Muslims. Unfortunately, that perception is gaining credibility in the Muslim world and for many years will complicate America's global credibility, purpose and leadership. This debilitating and dangerous perception must be reversed as the world seeks a new geopolitical, trade and economic center that will accommodate the interests of billions of people over the next 25 years. The world will continue to require realistic, clear-headed American leadership -- not an American divine mission.

The United States must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq. The cost of combat in Iraq in terms of American lives, dollars and world standing has been devastating. We've already spent more than $300 billion there to prosecute an almost four-year-old war and are still spending $8 billion per month. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And our effort in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, partly because we took our focus off the real terrorist threat, which was there, and not in Iraq.

We are destroying our force structure, which took 30 years to build. We've been funding this war dishonestly, mainly through supplemental appropriations, which minimizes responsible congressional oversight and allows the administration to duck tough questions in defending its policies. Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibility in the past four years.

It is not too late. The United States can still extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq. The Baker-Hamilton commission gives the president a new opportunity to form a bipartisan consensus to get out of Iraq. If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder -- one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead.

To squander this moment would be to squander future possibilities for the Middle East and the world. That is what is at stake over the next few months.

The writer is a Republican senator from Nebraska.


Anonymous said...

It seems that the op-ed is being heard. Check out CNN's comment at

Anonymous said...

While I agree with the Senator 110% and would support his candidacy over any other Republican, I can't help but feel the op-ed was a wasted opportunity to make a conservative case against the Bush Doctrine. The piece could have been a clarion call for a return of Goldwater/Reagan realism. It was, instead, either poorly written and reasoned, or the product of approval by committee, resulting in a rather bland and disjointed argument that lacks any noteworhty quality other than "a Republican against the war." Senator Hagel has been there, done that. It's time to move on, not bore us with a Nixonian "peace with honor" argument.

Citizen McLain said...

There will be plenty of time for Senator Hagel to provide a vision for the GOP as a candidate for President. What the piece does, however, is distinguish him as a possible candidate from the GOP pack, almost in the same way the RFK distinguished himself in 1968.

Also in the ope-ed are hints toward a greater vision for the Middle East, focused around the nexus of national security and economics.

It serves its purpose.

Let's see how quick it takes the chickenhawks to attack him personally.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to create a running argument here, but my point is Hagel will have to be big and bold on every issue to have even a longshot at the nomination. The most important quality of any Republican in the primary is loyalty. Since we waved bye-bye to that one long ago, Hagel needs to capture the imagination of primary voters to look beyond his betrayal of the President.

Ronald Reagan did not give voters a "hint" of "voodoo economics" in his campaign to deny George HW Bush his rightful turn as the nominee in 1980. Steve Forbes did not leapfrog Lamar Alexander to challenge the loyal Bob Dole (and make the cover of Time Magazine tearing up a 1040) by being sensible. The fact is every Republican candidate will, to some degree, agree and echo Hagel's op-ed in the months to come. There is very little there for anyone to take issue with.

Each of these other candidates leave quite a bit of room to be outflanked on tax reform, spending, Social Security and Medicare, immigration, jobs, trade, and yes, national security. McCain and Giuliani can afford to hit singles on these issues and win. Hagel needs home runs just to get in the game.