Coming Home at Last?

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Asked if the United States might send still more troops to Afghanistan, if the Obama surge is not succeeding by year’s end, Vice President Joe Biden answered, “I do not believe so.”

So, that is it. Biden is saying the 100,000 U.S. troops in theater or on the way is our limit. If Kabul and the Afghan army fail with this investment of American forces, they will be permitted to fail. All the chips we are going to commit are now on the table.

And a series of critical deadlines is approaching.

By the end of August, all U.S. combat troops are to be out of Iraq. Only 50,000 “training troops” are to remain, but all U.S. forces are scheduled to be withdrawn by the end of 2011.

In December, a review takes place of Afghan war strategy. Next July, U.S. withdrawals are to begin, though, since naming Gen. David Petraeus as his field commander, President Obama and his cabinet have emphasized that the withdrawals will be “conditions-based.”

We will walk, not run, to the exit.

But if we are topping out in Afghanistan, and the U.S. troop presence in Iraq is already less than half of the 170,000 after the surge of 2007, it seems America is on her way out of both wars.

What did they accomplish — and at what cost?

Saddam and his Baathist regime were overthrown, the dictator was hanged, elections were held, and a government that reflects the will of a majority of Iraqis put in its place.

Cost to the United States: More than 4,200 U.S. dead, 35,000 wounded, $700 billion sunk. In the Islamic world, the Iraq War led to pandemic hostility toward America. At home, the war led to the rout of the Republicans and the election of an anti-war liberal Democrat.

If Obama is indeed leading America into socialism, the War Party that led us into Iraq can take a full measure of credit.

And what is the cost to the Iraqi people of a U.S. invasion and occupation and seven-year war, the end of which is nowhere in sight?

Perhaps 100,000 dead, half a million widows and orphans, 4 million refugees, half having fled their country, devastation of a Christian community that dated to the time of Christ and the ethnic cleansing of the Sunnis from Baghdad.

Four months after elections, they have no government, and bombs that kill dozens still go off daily. And, when the Americans leave, a civil and sectarian war may return. The breakup of Iraq along ethnic and religious lines remains a possibility. The price of liberation is high.

And what did the Iraqis do to deserve this? Did they attack us?

No. They had nothing to do with 9/11 and had complied with the U.S. demand to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction years before the U.S. Army stormed in to discover and destroy those weapons.

And we wonder why these ungrateful people hate us.

The Afghan War was, at its inception, a just war.

If the Taliban would not turn over bin Laden and those who plotted the mass murder of 3,000 Americans, we had a right to go in after him, as Woodrow Wilson had a right to send Gen. John Pershing into Mexico to find and kill Pancho Villa after he murdered Americans in New Mexico.

But after the defeat of the Taliban by the Northern Alliance, the overthrow of Mullah Omar and our failure to capture or kill bin Laden at Tora Bora, we decided to stay on and convert the most tribalized and xenophobic land on earth into an Islamic democracy and strategic ally.

We will soon enter the 10th year of this war. And though 100,000 U.S. and 50,000 NATO troops are committed, the Taliban are winning — because they are not losing. They are more numerous, more deadly and more resourceful than they have been since their ouster in 2001.

Even Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the war was a draw. And Biden says we have reached the limit of our commitment.

Thus, what we are looking at is endless bleeding, now running at 60 dead U.S. soldiers a month, with no American military or political leader willing to say when the bleeding will stop or the war will end.

And the home front is visibly eroding. A majority of Americans now believe the war is unwinnable or not worth the cost, and a growing minority in Congress wants out. Some NATO allies are departing. Others are setting deadlines for withdrawal.

As for the Afghans we leave behind, who committed themselves to America’s war, they will, when we depart, suffer the fate of the “harkis” in Algeria, the South Vietnamese army and boat people, and the Cambodians we left behind to the tender mercies of the Khmer Rouge.

Have the politicians, journalists and think-tank geniuses who dreamed up these wars suffered ignominy and disgrace?

Not at all. They are debating and devising a new war — with Iran.

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