Our guest blogger is Ret. Maj. Gen. John Batiste, the former Commanding General of 1st Infantry Division.
For my first post here at ThinkProgress, I thought I would share something a little different from what you usually read here — something from a conservative perspective. I think this is especially fitting, given the new poll of foreign policy experts by Foreign Policy Magazine and the Center for American Progress, which shows 64 percent of conservative analysts feel the so-called “surge” in Iraq is having no impact, or a negative effect.
The following is an op-ed I wrote two weeks ago, which neither the Wall Street Journal or Washington Times wanted to consider, so I’m posting it here…
Over a year and a half ago, I made a gut-wrenching decision to leave the Army in order to speak out about the war in Iraq. I turned my back on over 31 years of service and what by all accounts would have been a great career. I realized that I was in a unique position to speak out on behalf of Soldiers and their families. I had a moral obligation and duty to do so. My family and I left the only life we knew and entered the political debate. As a two-time combat veteran, I understand the value of thorough planning and deliberate execution. I understand what it takes to win. As a life-long Republican, I am prepared to carry on with the debate for as long as necessary. I have been speaking out for the past 17 months and there is no turning back.
As a conservative, I am all for a strong military and setting the conditions for success. America goes to war to win. I am not anti-war and am committed to winning the struggle against world-wide Islamic extremism. But, I am outraged that elected officials of my own party do not comprehend the predicament we are in with a strategy in the Middle East that lacks focus and is all but relying on the military to solve the diplomatic, political, and economic Rubik’s Cube that defines Iraq. Our dysfunctional interagency process in Washington DC lacks leadership and direction. Many conservatives in Congress have allowed the charade to go on for too long.
It is disappointing that so many elected representatives of my party continue to blindly support the administration rather than doing what is in the best interests of our country. Traditionally, my party has maintained a conservative view on questions regarding our Armed Forces. For example, we commit our military only when absolutely necessary. In the same way conservatives have always argued against government excess in social programs, the lives our young men and women in uniform, our most precious resource, are not to be used on wars of choice or for nation building. The military theorist Carl von Clausewitz taught us that wars are to be fought only as a last resort–the extension of politics by other means.
These principles are apparently not understood by many of the Republicans in our Congress. Besides the fact that many conservatives allowed President Bush to jump head-first into a war of choice, the bullheadedness of Congressional Republicans who argue for staying the course runs contrary to conservative values. Many politicians of my party continue to argue that we must liberally use up whatever our military has left. Bottom line, the Republican Congress of the last six years abrogated its Constitutional duty and share in the responsibility for the debacle in Iraq.
Our all-volunteer military cannot continue the current cycle of deployments for much longer. America’s national strategy in Iraq is akin to a four legged stool with legs representing diplomacy, political reconciliation, economic recovery, and the military. The glue holding it all together must be the mobilization of the United States in support of the incredibly important effort to defeat world-wide Islamic extremism. The only leg on the stool of any consequence is the military–it is solid titanium and high performing, the best in the world. After almost six years since September 11, our country is not mobilized behind this important work and the diplomatic, political, and economic legs are not focused and lack leadership. Most Americans now appreciate that the military alone cannot solve the problem in Iraq. In this situation, the stool will surely collapse.
Our military and our treasury are not unlimited resources. The war in Iraq is breaking our fine Army and Marine Corps, and we are perilously close to doing damage that will take more than a decade to fix. Our brigades and divisions in Iraq today are at near full strength because the rest of the force has been gutted. We cannot place America in a position of weakness as it just begins its long war against world-wide Islamic extremism. The Republican administration is bleeding our national treasure in blood and dollars with little to show for it.
The high price we are paying might be worth it if Iraq’s many factions were making meaningful progress to achieve political reconciliation. But, after more than four years, Iraqis are no closer to settling their differences and the sitting Shia government is ineffective. With insufficient coalition and Iraqi security forces on the ground, the myth of Sisyphus is playing out over and over again. The Iraqi Parliament goes on vacation instead of working, and every few months, it seems, another Iraqi political faction walks out of the process. To me, continuing to expend money and American lives on a nation that shows little drive to solve its own problems is the foreign policy equivalent of a welfare queen.
The only way to stabilize Iraq and allow our military to rearm and refit for the long fight ahead is to begin a responsible and deliberate redeployment from Iraq and replace the troops with far less expensive and much more effective resources–those of diplomacy and the critical work of political reconciliation and economic recovery. In other words, when it comes to Iraq, it’s time for conservatives to once again be conservative.
– Major General John Batiste, US Army (retired)