In his statement to the House Armed Services Committee, excerpts from which appeared in The Sun on April 1st, Anthony Cordesman warned of the dangers of abandoning Iraq too quickly. His message, like that of Senator John McCain, is that Congress should not react to past mistakes by the current administration by demanding a withdrawal before Iraqi forces are capable of restoring peace and stability.
Cordesman worries that the administration’s exaggerated claims regarding the capabilities of the Iraqi Army and police (a “tissue of lies, spin, distortion and omission”) will encourage a premature exit. He is haunted by the devastating consequences for the brave officers of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) that followed our departure from that war before the ARVN could stand on its own.
However, Cordesman did not mention the overarching lesson learned in Korea, and relearned in Vietnam: The American people will not tolerate a prolonged, costly involvement in the civil war of another country. Realizing that, administration leaders, most notably Vice-President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, consistently misrepresented the time and effort that it would take to bring order to Iraq after the invasion. Almost four years after Rumsfeld dismissed the insurgency as “pockets of dead-enders,” the violence rages almost unabated.
As described by Cordesman, the human costs of our early withdrawal from Iraq likely will be tragic. No one can be sure whether the strategic consequences of the withdrawal will be grave as predicted by Senator McCain, or as benign as they were in Vietnam. However, it is absolutely certain that the American people will not be disabused of their desire to end our involvement in Iraq as rapidly as possible.
April 1, 2007